We’ve waited decades for the clean, green solar-powered revolution, but it’s not quite here yet, mostly because solar panels still cost too much and convert too little of the sun’s energy into electricity. There’s another way to harness the sun’s energy, though, by using regular glass mirrors, which are 95% efficient at reflecting both heat and light. Once deployed solely in large-scale solar fields, these heliostats, as they’re called, are now compact enough to use at home to brighten up gloomy rooms or shade-filled spots in your garden.
The Sunflower Home Heliostat from Wikoda “gives you the freedom to redirect the sun where you want. It finds where the sun is and tracks it,” says Wi-Cher Lim, Wikoda’s vice president of engineering and designer of the 18-pound device. The $399 Sunflower consists of six triangular glass mirrors, arranged like petals on a flower around four microprocessor-controlled phototransistors that track the movement of the sun across the sky. When the sun hits the mirrors, the light and heat are reflected and sent to whichever spot you’ve designated, up to 25 feet away. Solar-powered motors adjust the mirrors to reflect the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day.
The Sunflower is surprisingly powerful, generating up to 500 watts of power in the form of light and heat, according to Wikoda. “We wanted to make something that fully leverages the sun’s energy. Mirrors are the most efficient way of doing that,” adds Lim, a former engineer at the home audio company Sonos, who says he used the Sunflower to light his tomato patch over the summer, and got “a bumper crop.” The one drawback? Since the Sunflower reflects nearly the full spectrum of sunlight, including dangerous ultraviolet rays, you might want to slather on the sunscreen before soaking up all that glorious sunlight.AH