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Letting the sunshine in

The outlook is sunny for the Laboratory's prospects of commercializing hybrid solar lighting (HSL)

Jeff Muhs is wrapped in optical fiber carrying sunlight.
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

The outlook is sunny for the Laboratory's prospects of commercializing hybrid solar lighting (HSL). The ORNL technology uses sunlight to reduce the need for indoor electric lighting, the largest consumer of electricity in commercial buildings.

A rooftop HSL system collects, concentrates, and transmits sunlight through optical fibers to hybrid light fixtures inside the building, which also contain high-efficiency fluorescent lighting. When the transmitted sunlight completely illuminates each room, the electric lights stay off. When less natural light is available during cloudy days and at night, a photosensor activates dimmable controls that increase electric lighting adequately to supplement natural lighting and maintain desired illumination levels.

Principal investigator Jeff Muhs, of the Advanced Laser, Optics, and Diagnostics Technology Group in ORNL's Engineering Science and Technology Division, spearheaded the development of this revolutionary solar technology. Muhs organized a Hybrid Lighting Partnership, a collaboration of more than 25 organizations in 13 states, to assist in the research. In 2003, the group hosted the first Annual Hybrid Solar Lighting Summit, which was attended by both public and private stakeholders, including architects, utility executives, lighting designers, green power and clean energy advocates, and prospective commercialization partners.

ORNL also organized a broad-based public-private alliance to carry out the research and development needed to make HSL a viable commercial technology. Alliance members include, in addition to ORNL, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Wal-Mart, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), JX Crystals, SAIC, 3M, Honeywell, ROC Glassworks, Array Technologies, Edison Electric Institute, several prominent universities, and other national labs.

Under a contract awarded by the California Energy Commission, ORNL and SMUD in 2005 will install and begin operating an HSL system at SMUD's Sacramento headquarters. ORNL also plans to install an HSL system in a Wal-Mart store in Kauai, Hawaii, to evaluate energy savings and sales trends associated with HSL daylighting.

TVA and DOE are funding new R&D work on HSL lighting fixtures, or luminaires, that combine electrical lamps and optical fibers. The latest luminaires will be part of an HSL display at Oak Ridge's American Museum of Science and Energy in 2005.


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