Where and When to Use Solar-Powered Video Surveillance

New innovations in the field of solar-powered video systems are expanding their usefulness in the security and surveillance markets. Solar power offers reliable energy, cost savings and environmental advantages, and new wireless solar-powered video systems are now available for an expanding range of uses, especially for video surveillance applications. Here are some application factors that favor use of wireless solar-powered video systems — and some tips to maximize deployment of the systems:

Choosing a location — Deployment in remote areas beyond the reach of the end user’s communication infrastructure is an attractive facet of solar-powered systems. These systems are especially useful in dispersed or geographically challenging environments, such as oil refineries, parking lots, chemical facilities, critical infrastructure, transportation facilities, public safety environments, along roadways — anywhere the technology can be leveraged to secure a large area. Solar panels work well in ambient light and produce significant energy even in fog or on overcast days. Solar-powered systems can function in almost any location, as long as installers don’t position them under dense shade or under the eaves of a building. For most regions of the United States, a solar solution is a feasible option for video surveillance applications in outdoor environments.

Minimize environmental impact — Creating infrastructure to support a traditional video system can be disruptive, especially areas such as wetlands, high-traffic locales or other sensitive locations. When securing physical perimeters, a fence, trenching or physical barrier can disrupt wildlife migration patterns, limit business flow or otherwise harm the natural environment. In contrast, wireless solar-powered video systems require no infrastructure and allow sensitive areas and revenue-generating activities to be secured as well as preserved.

View up close without zooms or HD cameras — Security needs vary widely from one end user to the next in terms of what they want to view. Often the items or events of concern are positioned far from the centralized location where the video is monitored. In this sense, solar-powered wireless video cameras compete against expensive megapixel cameras, which claim to view large or distant areas using higher resolution and zoom lenses. However, positioning a camera nearer the site being viewed (beyond the reach of existing infrastructure) ensures a clear, cost-effective solution to remote viewing where the wired system cannot reach for the reasons highlighted above. Rugged wireless solar-powered cameras located strategically along a perimeter can provide the information for a high level of situational awareness, without the expensive price tag associated with permitting, trenching and cabling.

Use a simplified approach to boost performance — To ensure security, solar-powered camera systems must perform, and new developments are providing the best system for the money. New fully wireless technologies have dramatically reduced imaging and transmission power requirements to enable a camera to be powered by small solar panels installed on the housing of the camera and onboard batteries as backup power. This simplified approach can replace the complex trailer-mounted cameras previously used, which are expensive and rely on multiple power-hungry components. The integrated cameras can also replace pole-mounted solar solutions that require large panels and do not offer mobility, ease of deployment or aesthetically pleasing options.

Consider economics — A solar-powered camera with wireless transmission does not require any cabling, which can be a huge cost savings. Excavation and trenching costs, averaging from $75 to $150 cost per linear foot plus the added expense of cabling, can be completely avoided. The price can be even higher considering the need for special permits, inspections, maintenance, etc. Simplified, single-unit camera systems that use less energy can lower costs even more. Considering total cost of ownership (TCO), rather than the cost of an individual camera, especially highlights the lifecycle cost savings.

Aaron Tankersley is CEO of MicroPower Technologies (micropower-technologies.com). He can be contacted at atankersley@micropower.com.

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