Company

Carmanah lights get makeover

Victoria firm targets global market with the help of sleeker products
Friday, September 11, 2009
EverGEN 1710 Solar Street Light
Philppe Favreaux with the EverGEN 1710, which generates the equivalent of 100 to 200 watts of electricity.
Photograph by: Debra Brash, Times Colonist

The latest generation of Carmanah Technologies Corp. solar-powered lights has been given a stylish makeover by a San Francisco firm as the company targets a massive global marketplace of light poles.

Frog Design has helped to design product lines for a host of household names -- including Disney, Dell, Titleist, Intel and Logitech -- and delivered a sleek new model of Carmanah's EverGen 1710 stand-alone lighting system.

Victoria-based Carmanah unveiled the new lights yesterday, saying it is going after a larger chunk of the street and parking lot lighting pole market world wide. The focus on solar, LED lighting and power systems highlights Carmanah's new business model, marked last year by the sale and closures of less successful divisions and plants after losses of close to $9 million in 2007.

The new thinner version encases the power unit and solar panel in one angular white-plastic unit that can be adjusted to catch maximum light.

Philipe Favreau, Carmanah's chief operating officer, said the company is looking at market opportunities 10 to 20 times larger than in the past.

Globally, there are close to 200 million light poles already in place, he said. Another two million are installed annually, creating a potential multibillion-dollar market. Not all new lighting is destined for solar, but Favreau said the statistics provide "some sense of the opportunity ahead of us.

"Now it's a question for us to get out there and basically to educate people about LED solar," he said.

Frog worked not only on the EverGEN 1710's appearance, but on ways to enhance its performance and reduce manufacturing costs, Favreau said. "Many people can give you good looks but it's not practical because it is too expensive."

Each EverGEN 1710 unit generates the equivalent of 100 to 200 watts, similar to a conventional light standard, said Greg Miller, Carmanah market development manager. The angle of the solar panel can be adjusted and buyers have the option of motion and vehicle sensing. The LEDs will last more than 50,000 hours and the replaceable battery has a five-year lifespan.

EverGEN 1500, the previous version, covers wide areas and some units have already been purchased by NASA for its parking lots.

Unit costs between $4,000 and $8,000, depending on the size, Miller said. Manufactured in the U.S., the first units will be delivered this spring.

Carmanah shares were unchanged yesterday on the Toronto Stock Exchange at 88 cents. The company's stock has a 52-week high of $1.08.

On the Web:

www.carmanah.com and www.frogdesign.com.

cjwilson@tc.canwest.com