A range of companies are now producing systems for capturing sunlight and transmitting it into the interior of a building with fiber optic cables, where it is used to illuminate spaces that cannot benefit from direct daylighting through windows. Today we feature three companies with fundamentally similar systems. Each uses a rooftop collector (though each has its own approach for this) to gather sunlight and a fiber optic cable bundle to carry the light into the building.
In Sweden, Parans connects their rooftop collector to the most stylish of the interior fixtures. The Bjork fixture is named for the birch tree, and the light it provides is likened to light filtering through birch leaves.
Sunlight Direct produces a Hybrid Solar Lighting system that pairs a fiber optic system with a
fluorescent light fixture. A rooftop reflector concentrates enough light that
one collector can supply light to eight luminaire fixtures. By monitoring the
light being supplied, the system can maintain a constant light level when
outdoor lighting conditions are changing.
In Japan, the Himawari uses an array of lenses to concentrate the light onto the fibers. Like the Sunlight Direct system, the Himawari system tracks the sun via on-board sensors in clear weather, or relies on an internal clock when the weather is overcast.
Himawari has units ranging in capacity from a small unit with a single terminal to their largest array which can serve 33 interior fixtures. The Himawari system uses ceiling mounted "lighting appliances" which look much like standard monopoint heads or conventional downlights.
All of these filter UV and IR light before the light that is transmitted. This makes these systems ideal for use in art galleries and for applications where delicate and light and heat sensitive materials are present. These systems require a small amount of power in order to operate the tracking mechanism, but this is far lower than the power needed to provide a similar amount of electric illumination, even from high efficiency sources.
There are some drawbacks and limitations with these systems, however. The
systems are generally constrained by the length of the fiber optic cable,
which, at present, is roughly 45 feet (15m) from the collector. While the
manufacturers don't directly discuss it in their literature, keeping the
reflector or the enclosing bubble clean and clear would be vital for
maintaining the light quality from these systems.
Nonetheless, these are all promising systems that are beginning to see some
Sunlight Direct expects their HSL system will cost approximately $10,000 (US)
in 2007, but as production increases, the cost for these systems should come
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