When James Meringer’s commercial contracting business experienced a rapid increase in solar projects, he also saw an opportunity to extend the benefits of solar by using the bifacial solar panels he’d become familiar with in new ways. Bifacial solar panels enable sunlight from both sides of the panel, making it a more efficient harvest of solar power. Seeing the panel’s power, James and his team set out to use the same technology for street lighting. Until now, solar street lights have served as utilitarian solutions that force designers to choose between form and function. The Mira Bella Energy team has changed that.
Mira Bella Energy had a unique panel designed to be mounted to street lights. The bifacial solar panel is mounted vertically, instead of being mounted to the top of the light pole as it is traditionally. Vertically mounting the panel allows allows it to capture both day and evening sunlight. The 5-foot panels look like fins and are designed to be wind-tolerant. Each has a lithium-ion battery stack in that pole for night. The batteries are good for 3,000 charging cycles, or around 8 years of use. This means that lighting can be completely removed from the grid, or a hybrid approach can be used. To make the solution as smart, efficient and scalable as possible, Mira Bella Energy created an intelligent, bifacial solar powered lighting system by putting Internet of Things technology to work. To do this, each street light panel is also equipped with Digi XBee RF modules, a X2/X4 gateway and a connection to Digi Device Cloud. The XBee collects and communicates information from the street light solar panel to the gateway, which sends the information to the cloud where it's accessible via a web dashboard. “Our Santa Cruz solar street light product utilizes the Digi XBee module, a Digi gateway and Digi Device Cloud for control and communication. That’s what enables our product to participate in the Internet of Things,” said Mira Bella Founder James Meringer. “We used Digi products years ago with another company and always knew Digi would be one to watch for communications devices.”