Oak Ridge National Laboratory

 

News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations
865.576.0226

 

New Oak Ridge company putting hybrid solar lighting on map

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Aug. 30, 2005 — Startup company Sunlight Direct is bursting onto the horizon with demonstration hybrid solar lighting systems at the Department of Energy's American Museum of Science and Energy and several locations across the country.

A ceremony today at the museum in Oak Ridge marked the official launch of a technology that promises to deliver significant energy savings and a better quality of light to commercial buildings throughout the United States. Increased energy costs and provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that provide tax incentives make the timing ideal for hybrid solar lighting.

"The demonstration of this innovative, energy-saving solar hybrid lighting system that literally pipes sunlight into a room is an excellent example of how a public-private partnership can advance a promising new technology from the research laboratory to working reality," said Bill Baxter, chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is sponsoring the hybrid lighting system at the museum. "TVA is pleased to join Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Department of Energy in supporting the private sector development of a promising technology that will expand the use of solar energy."

The DOE Solar Energy Technologies Program leads the effort to research, develop and deploy cost-effective technologies. These technologies, including hybrid lighting, help to encourage the use of solar energy throughout the United States and the world. DOE has worked closely with national laboratories, universities, industry, professional associations and other programs within DOE and federal, state and local agencies across the nation.

Meanwhile, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is co-sponsoring solar hybrid lighting systems at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District headquarters and at a Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas. Sunlight Direct, which is in the process of licensing the technology from UT-Battelle, has sold another six beta systems to be installed at commercial buildings in Minneapolis, New York, San Diego and other sites around the country.

Sunlight Direct's product, the HSL 3000, uses a roof-mounted 48-inch diameter collector and small fiber optics to transfer sunlight to top-floor hybrid fixtures that contain electric lamps. With a control system, the two light sources work in tandem by dimming the electric lights when the sunlight is bright and turning them up as clouds move in or as the sun sets. The result is a dramatic improvement over conventional approaches to bringing sunlight into buildings.

The technology reduces energy usage not only for lighting but also for cooling because of the system's ability to block ultraviolet and infrared heat. Developers note that the savings can be dramatic, especially in areas of the nation blessed with abundant sunshine.

"With 24 percent of the energy use of commercial buildings attributed to artificial lighting, we believe the time is right for this energy-efficient technology to help commercial building owners save energy while also creating jobs and helping the environment," said Duncan Earl, a co-developer of hybrid solar lighting and chief executive officer for Sunlight Direct.

A study by the Antares Group for the Solar Energy Technologies Program concluded that up to 1 million hybrid solar lighting systems could be in use by 2020, saving ratepayers billions of dollars annually.

In addition to the environment and financial incentives - which includes a 30 percent tax credit - proponents of hybrid solar lighting note that the higher quality of natural light leads to increased productivity and improved sales in retail outlets.

Sunlight Direct (http://www.sunlight-direct.com/index.html), which was formed in 2004 for the sole purpose of commercializing hybrid solar lighting, plans a full product launch in 2007. The technology was developed at ORNL through funding by DOE and TVA in partnership with utility companies, state energy agencies, industry and universities. Sunlight Direct is located in Oak Ridge.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

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