In this article, I wanted to go a little further in depth into hybrid solar lighting. My first article can be found under Hybrid Solar Lighting Technology.
Hybrid solar lighting is the new buzzword in the energy sector. Unlike standard solar lights, hybrid solar lighting is relatively new and uses a combination of technologies. Conventional solar lights use solar energy and convert it into electrical energy to light the bulb. In the newer version, the sunlight is mirrored indoors using a collector and optical light cables. When there is enough sunlight, there is no electricity used to power the bulbs. On a not-so-sunny day, the electricity generated by the solar energy is used to light the bulbs.
Hybrid solar lighting technology has been in use for some years now but because of the prohibitively high cost it was relatively unheard of. Solar lights are more affordable and hence they took off faster. However, with much technological advancement taking place in the recent past, hybrid solar lighting now looks to be more attractive; at least for commercial uses. The cost has come down with the global positioning system becoming more affordable and getting the computer accessories manufactured at cheaper price.
The hybrid solar system works in a unique manner. The core part of the lighting system is the light collector, which receives and collects the sunlight. Needless to mention, the collector is large and round in shape to enable maximum surface area for the sunlight to fall upon. For those of you who have not seen a solar light collector, it looks similar to a satellite TV dish except that it is larger in size. The collector cells or surfaces are all mirrored to enhance the collection efforts.
The collectors used in hybrid solar lighting systems have an interface with the global positioning system. The GPS helps in tracking the sun from sunrise to sunset. The hybrid solar lighting system works on the simple principle to capture as much sunlight as possible. In order to maximize the capturing, the sunlight is diverted to the center of the dish through mirroring. At the center of the dish, there are numerous optical cables ready to gather the sunrays. A filter is also provided to filter off the harmful UV rays present in the sunlight.
The captured sun rays pass through the optical fiber provided and is taken to the inner parts of the building. The receptor dish is positioned at the roof of the building. As the light rays pass through the optical cable, the intensity decreases and hence it is important to capture much more light than what is required for lighting the building. As light travels through the optical cables, there are special fixtures that diffuse the sunlight into all directions. The fixture resembles a conventional incandescent bulb but the difference is that the light coming through the fixtures of the hybrid solar lighting system is direct sunlight. There are also fixtures that can detect the position of the sun. When the intensity of the sunrays diminishes (for example, when the sun hides behind the clouds), these sensors will prompt the lighting fixture to derive power from electricity. The intelligent functioning of the lighting system ensures that there is a constant supply of light inside the building.
There are many advantages to hybrid solar lighting. Solar lights became popular because they helped in keeping the environment green. In hybrid lighting, unlike solar lights, there is no change in energy form. Direct sunlight is used for lighting. This helps in reducing the heat produced from light bulbs, especially when compared to incandescent bulbs. Also when compared to fluorescent lights, the hybrid lights produce a full spectrum of light. The full spectrum light is better for the human eye it is actually the sunlight, which is channeled indoors. Colors are seen better when viewed in full spectrum eye and reduces the stress on human eyes.
Solar lights use photovoltaic cells to convert solar energy into electrical energy. These cells are capable of converting only 15 percent of the solar energy into electricity whereas the hybrid solar lighting system uses almost 50 percent of the sunlight falling on the collector dish. This definitely provides for a better efficient system since there is maximum utilization of energy. By providing a single collector of four feet size, an area of 10,000 square feet can be lit up. Since the heat produced is lesser, there is also lesser use of air conditioning system inside the building, which again goes on to conserving energy.
The downside of hybrid solar lighting system is that it can currently be used for single story buildings only. In addition, since it is still expensive, it is more viable for commercial uses rather than for residential purposes. Lot of research is still happening and there is a positive trend in the use of renewable sources of energy. Considering the benefits and the market trend, one can safely assume that hybrid solar lighting is the future of solar lights.