I am part of a faculty and student team installing a weather station at the research campus at the University of North Texas to monitor ambient environmental energy (wind, solar, and deep ground thermal). One of our challenges is locating an inexpensive heliostat, a device that always points at the sun, upon which to mount a pyranometer, which will measure solar flux.
While searching for viable heliostats, I found an interesting product from Practical Solar of Boston, MA. This company produces a residential-scale heliostat with mounted mirrors designed to reflect sunlight onto a fixed target chosen by the user. PC software drives servos to implement the solar tracking routine. While this product does not solve my weather station problem, it appears to have several practical uses and costs less than $1,000.
Sunlight can be redirected from the owner’s yard into a home to provide natural lighting for otherwise dark spaces without need for electricity. It’s the modern equivalent of Egyptian tomb builders reflecting surface sunlight to illuminate underground Pharaoh tombs. Moreover, the reflected light provides heat. So the heliostat mirrors could augment winter heating by directing more light (and heat) into an interior space.
The Practical Solar reflecting heliostat is a refreshingly simple product in a world gone crazy with complex alternative energy technologies. If used properly the reflecting heliostat could provide real energy savings (both in lighting and heating) on a residential scale.