Products & Technology

Solving lighting challenges for remote site operators

Sonaray speaks with Rail Express about finding efficient solutions for lighting challenges in remote locations.


Access to cheap and reliable power can be a challenge for regional rail sites. In remote locations where mainline power is not always available, generating power for lighting around the yard is often challenging and inefficient. There are also concerns over the environmental impact of lighting when left on permanently in remote locations.

Sonaray’s Project Manager, Alex Poon, tells Rail Express this range of issues was among those considered by the Australian lighting specialist when it designed its solar-powered LED range.

“Solar lighting, especially for street lights or pathway lights, becomes a very environmentally friendly, user friendly, and cost-effective option,” Poon says. “It was not as viable in the past because traditional lighting consumes a lot more energy than an LED, and you need to have a huge battery.”

With the shift to more energy efficient LED technology, Poon says overall energy consumption drops between 50 and 70 per cent. This means the solar panel and battery can be smaller, reducing the wind factor of the product and its overall weight.

“In the past, you were using a traditional power cell battery that could easily weigh 40 to 50kg. You cannot put that on top of a panel, so you would have to dig a hole, and that can be a problem. Being able to mount the power equipment high up also better protects it during incidents of fl ood, theft, and other events,” Poon explains.

Providing a flexible and cost-efficient lighting option for remote rail sites can be a boost to overall safety.

“When rail workers have to carry out manual train switching duties, they need lighting and might not have power. In the past, at night, they may have used a torch to walk out and switch the tracks, but the torch is limited and not very powerful, so there is an occupational health and safety issue. With a solar light in that area, you can see the control handle from 200 metres away.”

The solar lighting system has been designed not just to be switched on or off, but as a smart system with automatic dimming to not disturb wildlife and conserve energy. A motion sensor means the LEDs can come up to 100 per cent when needed.

Cost efficiency is further boosted through the LED technology itself: the lights have a life expectancy of roughly 50,000 hours, compared to around 12,000 hours for traditional systems.

The LED solar light comes in 4W, 10W, 30W, 80W, 150W and 320W options. This very wide range is designed to cover a variety of applications from residential houses, footpath, driveways and rail infrastructure, all the way up to the rail intersections. The 320W option can provide power to any lighting, security camera or IoT monitoring system, as well.

Beacon partnership

Often for overall solutions, Sonaray works with its partner, Beacon Energy Solutions, a division of ASX-listed firm Beacon Lighting. “We often work with Beacon when they have a tender on large warehouses and sites that have solar parts,” Poon explains. “We do the lighting solution and make sure the client meets Australian Standards while using the minimum possible energy consumption. The less energy you use, the more overall effi ciency is improved.”

Even for larger regional train depots where there is access to mainline power, Poon says the solar LED lighting solution can protect operators from the high prices charged by energy providers.

“Often energy companies charge depots on spikes, when their electricity demand is at its highest. The electricity companies might charge based on a spike that is used for fi ve seconds every day. It might be 100 pi pressure for that five seconds with a normal pressure of 50, but they’ll still charge on the higher rate. You want to bring down your peak closer to the average,” Poon explains.

“From Beacon’s point of view, they can do what is called power correction factor, which can save clients a lot of money. That’s not just about generating the power but reducing the everyday usage costs.

“Our focus is long term business with local support. With Beacon, we aim to be there in the long term for the customer and deliver what we promise for the customer.”