Hybrid Solar Lighting Promises 50% Efficiency

"The Hybrid Solar Lighting technology is fundamentally different from PV and solar thermal," said John Morris, president of Sunlight Direct, Inc., which licensed the technology from ORNL. "Our system transmits light in order to reduce the electrical need for lighting within a building. It does not convert sunlight to electricity but rather delivers the natural lighting directly into the building—with 50% efficiency."

If PV panels were used to convert the sunlight to electricity and then to convert the electricity back into lighting, the conversions would result in only about 2%-8% efficiency, Morris added.

"For applications involving incandescent lamps, one HSL system typically displaces about 3,000 watts of energy use associated with lighting. At the current fully installed cost, that translates into about $5-$8 per watt. This is almost twice as cost effective as PV panels, which typically run $10 per watt fully installed," said Morris, noting all costs are before rebates.

But as with many technologies being developed in the lab, the primary challenge now is to consistently demonstrate the efficiency of the hybrid technology system—and then increase that efficiency while reducing the price to the customer, said Morris.

Currently, there are 21 hybrid lighting systems being tested at various demonstration projects around in the U.S. including a Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas; a Staples in Long Island, New York; a Braden’s Furniture showroom in Knoxville, Tennessee; The Naval Exchange in Hawaii; office space at San Diego State University; the Aveda corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and ORNL’s Multi-Purpose Research Facility.

Sunlight Direct, Inc., is planning for the commercial release of the HSL technology in the first quarter of 2008.

The Excellence in Technology Transfer Award was presented to representatives of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the consortium’s annual convention in Arlington, Texas, last month. The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer is composed of more than 700 federal laboratories and facilities representing approximately 100,000 scientists and engineers.

In addition to this award, the hybrid solar lighting technology earned an R&D 100 Award and a Southeast Region Federal Laboratory Consortium Award in 2006.The technology was developed through funding by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Solar Technologies Program, along with a partnership of utility companies, state energy agencies, industry and universities.

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