In an ideal world, we’d use natural light to brighten every darkened nook that needs illumination. But in reality, skylights and windows can let only so much light into a structure, and the amount of light varies based on the time of day. The Sundolier robotic skylight from Boulder-based Sunflower aims to change all this by actively “pumping” natural light into interior spaces, illuminating areas of up to 2,500 square feet with a single unit.
The Sundolier employs a large dual-axis tracking mount with a couple of reflectors that gather light into a two-foot tube, which in turn feeds into a “sun chandelier” that lights up the room below. The rig tracks the sun as its position changes in the sky, so regardless of the time of day, the light intensity inside the building stays relatively stable. Once the sunlight is captured, it can be distributed in several different ways, so a single Sundolier atop a roof can channel light to many different fixtures in the building below.
Of course, as with any solar harvesting scheme, Sundolier is hamstrung by Earth’s atmospheric processes; when the sun is out, the Sundolier provides ample lighting, but overcast skies render it somewhat ineffective.
Even so, the power savings on a good sunny day are pretty remarkable. In a public building like a large school that contains lots of interior space that must be well-lit, piping in natural light could save a good deal in energy costs over the course of a year. The company claims Sundolier can also help cut cooling costs (all those light bulbs really do add to the ambient heat of a building), and since the sunlight doesn’t come in directly as it does through skylights and windows, it doesn’t contribute any appreciable heat gain.
Check the video below to see the Sundolier pumping natural light into the Douglas County Library.