Sunlight Direct's hybrid solar lighting system collects light from a roof-mounted, 40-inch mirrored dish with a GPS-director monitor to keep it pointed toward the sun, maximizing light intake. The system then concentrates and filters the light, and distributes it throughout a building through plastic fiber optic cables.
Along with the benefits of exposing people to natural light, the system can also save on electricity by reducing the amount of power used during the middle of the day, the time of peak demand on the electricity grid. The hybrid solar lighting system could save up to $8,000 per unit annually, according to Sunlight Direct.
A 2003 retail study by building design firm Heschong Mahone Group found that stores lit by diffusing skylights also had a strong association with increased sales. The study concluded that an optimized day-lighting system could save stores 24 cents per square foot on their energy bill while resulting in increased sales of up to 66 cents per square foot. Similar patterns were also observed in office and school environments, the study commissioned by the California Energy Commission found.
"Both the school and the office studies found strong and consistent correlations between better views and better performance," the report stated. "There is a clear suggestion from this work that window views are important for sustained human performance."
Sunlight Direct hopes to market the system by early next year, and 25 retail outlets and office buildings are already testing it, including retail giants such as Wal-Mart and Staples, which want to test the system's effect on sales. Some office buildings have already implemented the system to determine its effect on worker productivity and absenteeism.
While Sunlight Direct is concentrating on selling their product to retail stores and office buildings for now, they said they would ultimately like to make it available to the public.
"We'd like to go there but for now, because of maintenance, reliability and safety reasons, we're not offering it to home owners," Sunlight Direct's chief technology officer, Duncan Earl said. "We need to make sure we have all the kinks and maintenance worked out."
"Piping sunlight into workspaces and retail locations is a brilliant strategy for boosting health and productivity," said Mike Adams, a proponent of the healing benefits of sunlight and produce of The Healing Power of Sunlight, a free report from Truth Publishing. "Sunlight generates astounding positive effects on mood, metabolism, mental health, bone density, vitamin D production, heart health and even cancer prevention," Adams said. "It's powerful medicine, and if new technology can help pipe sunlight into the workplace, both employees and employers will experience phenomenal benefits. There's no question that this technology will reduce sick days, boost worker productivity and even enhance moods and cognitive function," he added.