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Solar Streetlights With Inbuilt Lithium-Ion Batteries To The Rescue

Intelizon was founded by Dr Kushant Uppal, a global professional with 20-plus years of techno-commercial success. He returned to India to develop a unique solar-based light system to light up our streets. Wireless outdoor lighting solutions are at the core of Intelizon’s success and innovation.

Solar streetlight is a US$ 3 to US$ 4 billion market globally. It is estimated to grow to US$ 15 billion by 2024. The market is dominated by regional and local players with customised specifications.

The market has faced many field issues over the years. Companies like Intelizon are proving the reliability that has led to the acceptance of lithium-ion batteries. (Recently, MNRE mandated all state government to stop using lead-acid batteries and transition to lithium-ion ones for solar streetlights). Quite a few brands are expected to emerge in the next three to five years.

Lack of reliable products lead to the focus on lithium-ion-based solar systems. In the case of streetlights, lead-acid solar systems had theft as well as performance issues, leading to field failures.

Intelizon already had innovative and reliable home lighting systems, but their channel partners asked for inbuilt lithium-ion-based solar streetlights to address the field issues. Intelizon, with their Gambia partner, initiated the idea for inbuilt lithium-ion-based solar streetlights.

The process
Designing a reliable system was the main challenge for Intelizon team. They faced installation-related as well as environmental issues. These were addressed with redesign. Today, they have systems working in the field for more than five years.

Solar panels charge the battery during the day. The battery then provides power to the LED, which runs all night. Intelizon has auto-dimming, self-autonomy (efficient charging and performance even on cloudy days), remote monitoring and control as well as inbuilt CCTVs as some of the key features in their models. There is a strong technology element with optics (LED and lenses), solar, battery, firmware, hardware and software coming together to create advanced and reliable systems.

Operational limitations. The company currently limits the operating conditions between 0°C and 50°C. There are certain regions globally that require extreme temperature operations at sub-zero or 60°C.

Incubation and funding. Intelizon was incubated at IIT-Madras, and raised venture capital to develop the technology for home lighting systems. Initial product knowledge was leveraged to develop more complex outdoor lighting systems. The company did not raise further funds and took about one year to design the system and another year to make it field reliable.

Consumer benefits
Outdoor solar lights have a great value proposition in Greenfield locations where underground cabling costs can be saved. There is also additional savings on electricity and maintenance costs, and protection from power outages. Some applications where Intelizon lights have been installed are urban communities, commercial offices, schools, colleges, hospital campuses, rural areas, farmhouses, streets and factories. The target customers are private companies as well as government agencies.

Marketing the solution
The company appoints local channel partners globally who work with local companies and governments to promote its technology and products, while participating in tenders. Intelizon is one of the few companies globally that can claim to have lithium-ion-based solar streetlights operating in the field for more than five years.

Companies from China as well as local companies in India have introduced inbuilt lithium-ion-based solar streetlights. However, reliability and design flaws have led to field issues. For example, there are many companies promoting a model with inbuilt solar panels with the light. This has an inherent issue, since solar panels need to face south (for efficient charging), while light needs to face the street.

Intelizon has also introduced GSM-based solar streetlights for remote monitoring and control, as well as inbuilt CCTV-based lights for which there is no competition today.
Their installed systems cost between INR 10,000 and INR 60,000 depending on the features and light output requirement.

The company has an in-house R&D team that continues to innovate. The current models are already two to three years ahead of competition. And, the upcoming proprietary technologies that the team is working on will put Intelizon at least five years ahead of the curve.

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