Sunday, October 28, 2012

Solar Fibre Lights

Technology similar to that found on fibre optic Christmas trees could be used to provide solar lighting. The hybrid solar lighting technology uses a rooftop-mounted 48-inch diameter collector and secondary mirror that track the sun throughout the day. The collector system focuses the sunlight into 127 optical fibres connected to hybrid light fixtures equipped with diffusion rods visually similar to fluorescent light bulbs. These rods spread light in all directions. One collector powers 8 to 12 hybrid light fixtures, which can illuminate about 1,000 square feet. During times of little or no sunlight, a sensor controls the intensity of the artificial lamps to maintain a constant level of illumination.



Over the next several months, researchers in the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory's (ORNL) Solar Technologies Program will continue to perform beta testing of the units, installed or being installed at various locations around the USA, including Sacramento Municipal Utility District customer service headquarters, San Diego State University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Staples store in Long Island, N.Y., and Aveda Corp. in Minneapolis.

The system can save about 6,000 kilowatt hours per year in lighting and another 2,000 in reduced cooling needs for a total of 8,000 kilowatt hours annually, according to Sunlight Direct estimates. Over 10 years, for parts of the country where the utility rates are 10 cents per kilowatt hour, that can result in savings up to $8,000 per hybrid solar lighting unit. For large floor spaces – 100,000 to 200,000 square feet – this translates into energy cost savings of between $1 million and $2 million over 10 years, according to Sunlight Direct. Operation and maintenance savings could account for another $300,000 in savings over the same period.

The great thing about hybrid solar lighting is that it produces peak light output during the time when there's the greatest demand for electricity. That saves energy during the part of the day when electricity costs the most, and the reduced demand could reduce the incidents of power cuts.

If market projections prove accurate, within five years 5,000 hybrid solar lighting systems could be installed in regions of the nation where solar availability and electricity rates make this technology cost effective, saving 50 million kilowatt hours per year. Retail applications are the most likely first market for this technology.

The challenge during 2006/2007 is to reduce the cost from about $12 to $4 per square foot. With larger collectors and other design improvements, researchers say they can achieve that goal. When that happens, businesses in regions where electricity is most expensive could pay for implementing the technology in three to five years with savings in electricity bills alone.

In addition to the environmental and financial incentives proponents of hybrid solar lighting note that the higher quality of natural light leads to increased productivity and improved sales in retail outlets. They also note that hybrid solar lighting avoids the environmental problems associated with generating and transmitting electricity.

For more details click here. Another company producing similar fibre lighting can be found here.


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