Solar lighting is defined as a solar method of illuminating the interior of a building with the use of sunlight or skylight energy.
The sun’s solar energy has two forms, the first is in the form of a sun beam and the other is in the form of diffused skylight. The sun beam is an uninterrupted direct source of solar energy. When atmosphere and clouds diffuse the amount of solar energy, then it is called diffused sunlight.
Solar Lighting Beginnings:
The idea to harness solar energy has been around centuries ago. In fact, the Chinese, Romans and Greeks were successful to come up with a device that can gather and utilize the sun’s solar energy. This was achieved by using burning mirrors that can light up the torches for religious ceremonies.
From that era, solar energy had continually evolved. The earliest successful gathering of solar energy was in 1767. Horace de Saussure, a French-Swiss scientist was able to construct the first solar collector. Other notable scientists who contributed to the development of solar lighting were Bell Labs on the first solar cell, American researchers Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin on silicon solar cell.
Classes of Solar Lighting
Optical solar lighting occurs when direct sunlight is used to light-up buildings. It is an efficient, durable and low maintenance system. The drawback is that it is expensive when used for multi-storey buildings in which more light-piping is needed.
Photovaltic solar lighting converts and stores solar lighting into electricity. It has an inexpensive voltage wire and can be easily installed. The disadvantage of this type of solar lighting is that its batteries and electrical control elements are expensive.
Hybrid solar lighting also converts sunlight into electricity but has advantages over traditional solar lighting. One of its advantages is its ability to yield 50% converted sunlight to buildings, compared to that of the 15% average sunlight converted for photovaltic solar lighting. It also generates less heat which means there is less use of air conditioning. It is also claimed to have health benefits because of its ability to deliver light into full spectrum. Hybrid solar lighting may still be used in residences in spite of its high cost. But some establishments especially for retail stores take the advantages of this type of solar lighting.
As a whole, solar lighting conserves energy, brings comfort in any living space and relatively lowers costs of energy consumption.
Solar lighting is a versatile type of lighting system. It can be used both in indoor and outdoor lighting. Portable lighting such as flashlights and handheld lanterns can also be charged using solar lighting.
Environmental benefits are the greatest advantages that solar lighting can give.
It does not emit any harmful chemicals that may contribute to global warming. It is a renewable source which means it is an infinite source of energy.
Solar lighting as an industry has brought together allied professions and other specialists together. Engineers, architects, designers, and manufacturers have been actively involved in coming up with a renewable and sustainable lighting system. Though this is the present scenario, it is a fact that the solar lighting industry has no standards in governing the quality and performance of solar energy. There is still a need for the community to be able to understand and to be aware about this growing industry.