IMD Solar Signage Project

solasign H1

powered by solarap™  +  controlled by smartadapt ™

Project Summary

Application(s): Signage / Wayfinding

Solution(s) Used: custom solar signage lighting

Key Features:

  • 100% off-grid solar signage
  • Six (6) no. 14ft tall custom design and fabricated signs
  • lighting – 4000K white LED strip luminaires
  • energy storage – AGM lead-acid batteries
  • solarapTM PV modules mono crystalline cells
  • smartadaptTM integrated power and lighting controls
  • systems integrated aluminum with translucent panels
  • 5 day blackout autonomy


In each of six monuments, custom solar modules charge a lead-acid battery that powers 24 volt LED light fixtures within the sign. The LED lights illuminate the sign during the most busy night-time hours to provide enhanced visibility and aesthetics. Solartonic’s proprietary control system is programmed with an adaptive dimming profile for the LED lights which sets lighting times and durations in relation to variable dusk and dawn times throughout the year. This conserves battery power and prolongs the life and reliability of the system.


Strategically located in the fast growing southwest region of Houston, the International Management District is one of 28 management districts in the Greater Houston Area. The District was created by the Texas legislature in 2007 with the purpose of enhancing the physical, social and economic well-being of the community.

The District is undergoing a transformation from being the western extension of Houston’s Chinatown to a broader American and international community ideally suited to working, shopping, dining and living. To help bring about this change, the District has several major improvement projects underway to enhance mobility, attractiveness and quality of life in the community.

Installing new entrance signs on the main thoroughfares circling the District is a key part of the improvement plans. The objectives are:

  • To welcome visitors to the District, and increase visibility and awareness of the District’s boundaries.
  • To make a bold branding statement which reflects the growing international and ethnic mix of the community.
  • To communicate forward progress in real estate development and business investment which the District has been experiencing.

M2L Associates, Inc., a leading landscape architectural firm in Houston, was chosen to design the signs. The firm was already familiar with solartonic’s customized approach to integrating solar technology into the built environment, and conceived of six 14-foot tall monuments that would be internally illuminated with LED strips, and powered completely through embedded solar photovoltaic modules and battery storage, in order to avoid the expense of laying electrical cable and connecting to utility service.

Working together with M2L, solartonic designed, engineered, fabricated and commissioned a unique and fully integrated solar lighting solution. The final installation was assembled by Houston fabricators NEC Signage and Architectural Products.

Design Solution: custom solar signage lighting

M2L’s design presented unique challenges for integrating the solar lighting system. The solar modules were embedded along the two narrowest sides of the monuments, using concealed fixtures to ensure a flush fit-up and provide complete security against theft. Working closely with NEC, solartonic devised a unique fabrication method to allow the signs to be easily fitted with the solar modules and pre-assembled in the factory.

Using our patent-pending solar cell strip technology, solartonic’s solar modules are designed to be fail-safe against vandalism. Each solar module provides its own power and as such any damage to a panel will still allow the rest of the system to remain fully functional, while a damaged panel is replaced.

All fixtures and wiring are completely concealed within the monument, allowing the monument to have a clean appearance as a result of solartonic’s system integration. Under normal operating conditions, the solar modules charge the batteries during daylight hours. The lights adaptively turn on at blue hour dusk, and off at blue hour dawn as governed by solar irradiance levels at that time of the day – allowing the lights to turn on/off precisely at dusk/dawn, and do not remain on prematurely, from overcast sky conditions.   The lights are custom programmed for Houston latitude, to remain on fully during busy dark hours after dusk and before dawn and then to dim down to 50%.  For a period before and after midnight, when no light is required, the lights are turned of to further conserve energy.

Throughout the project, solartonic worked closely with NEC, providing engineering support on the integration of solartonic’s solution into the monuments. solartonic staff also commissioned the solar and lighting components of each monument at the installation site.


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