FAQs

Heliostat

What’s a Heliostat?
An apparatus containing a movable or driven mirror, used to reflect sunlight in a fixed direction.    As the sun moves across the sky, a heliostat makes small adjustments to the position of a mirror in order to keep reflected light on a target.   The larger the mirror mounted on the heliostat, the more energy and light is delivered to the target.  Multiple heliostats can reflect light onto the same target to deliver large amounts of heat and light.
What Can I do with a Heliostat?
Heliostats are the most efficient and low-cost way to harness solar energy.  The uses for heliostats include:
  • heating homes, offices, and other buildings – one H1 heliostat can deliver over 1000 watts of heat, with no energy bill.
  • providing sunlight to shaded spaces – ‘daylighting’.  Rooms in some buildings always face away from the sun.  One H1 heliostat delivers over 230,000 lumens of beautiful natural light, free.
  • replacing fossil fuel heat in industrial processes – for example, in our solar rotational molding systems, LightManufacturing replaces expensive, polluting gas-fired ovens with an array of silent, clean heliostats.   Ask us how free solar thermal energy can transform your industry.
  • Keeping trees and plants alive and healthy in atria and courtyards or other shaded areas.
  • generating steam / ‘process heat’ for industrial applications
  • enhancing oil extraction
  • reducing the moisture content of crops – eg drying nuts prior to roasting, drying seafood
  • industrial-scale cooking
  • sterilization of medical equipment
  • melting snow and ice
  • electricity generation in ‘power-tower’ applications …and much more.
What are the Main Advantages of the H1 Heliostat?
  • lowest price per watt in the industry
  • up to 2.3 M2 mirror area, delivers up to 2050 watts to target per heliostat, or over 230,000 lumens
  • autonomous operation – no computer connection required except for one-time setup.
  • 90%+ efficient reflector
  • NEMA-enclosed microprocessor in each heliostat, providing autonomous operation (configuring / programming one heliostat leaves rest of array operational.
  • Fast switching between user-defined targets – no ‘single-target’ limitation
  • 12V DC power
  • Fast heliostat startup cycle
  • flat-pack form factor for efficient shipping
  • easy field repair / adjustment
  • available wireless configuration and control from your laptop – intuitive & simple
  • scalable:   systems from 1 to 1000+ heliostats.  Unlimited heat / light.
  • robust, rugged design, tolerates 60+ mph wind gusts in any position, 90+ in ‘safe’ position
  • ideal tool for applying Concentrated Solar Power ( CSP ) to industrial processes
  • ideal heliostat for home / office daylighting and heating.
  • reduce or eliminate use of fossil fuels / carbon emissions / carbon taxes
  • generate LEED points or carbon credits for Green Building applications
  • commercial grade construction – all metal, no plastic frame elements.
Where Can I Buy the H1 Heliostat?
The H1 Heliostat is available for sale at our heliostat order page ( click here ). The H1 heliostat is available for sale to the general public in several configurations, and we also offer sales programs for commercial customers with volume purchasing needs.
What Makes the H1 Heliostat Special?
The LightManufacturing H1 heliostat is an industrial-grade heliostat that combines robust performance with easy setup and operation – and at the lowest price per reflected watt of any heliostat on the market.   Simply put, it costs less to heat a target with the H1 that with any other solution.
What are the Wind Ratings of the H1 Heliostat?
  • steady wind / normal operation OK to 25 MPH / 11 meters-second
  • gust rating any position OK to 60 MPH / 27 meters-second
  • gust rating ‘safe position’ OK to 95 MPH / 43 meters-second
Do LightManufacturing Heliostats Require a Computer for Tracking?
No.  The H1 heliostat has an internal microprocessor, and no external computer is needed for regular heliostat operation.  A computer or smart-phone browser IS used for initial setup – eg entering heliostat location (lat/long) time of day, time zone, etc – and for defining the heliostat ‘targets’ – where you want the light and heat from the heliostat to go.   After this initial setup, which is done wirelessly, the heliostat operates totally autonomously.  All it needs is 12V DC power – which can be provided by our optional P1 or P2 solar power supplies if you’re installing the heliostat somewhere without available local power. Autonomous heliostat operation is very important if you’re managing multiple units – you don’t want your entire heliostat array taken offline because of a central computer failure, or because of a wiring problem.  LightManufacturing H1 heliostats are robust and failure-resistant in part because each one operates autonomously.   This is important both for heliostat architectural / green building applications and for heliostat solar thermal manufacturing.
Can Heliostats Generate LEED Points for my Green Building Project?
Yes.  In fact, heliostats like the LightManufacturing H1 are one of the simplest ways to add sustainable, low-cost solar heat and light to a new green building project, infill project, or retrofit.  Heliostats are low cost, and supply heat and light through existing building windows. » Read more about heliostats for LEED / green building applications.
Can I Heat a Home or Office with Heliostats?
Yes. Heliostats are a low cost way to capture light and heat and direct it into a building through windows. In many buildings, some rooms never get direct sunlight at all – they face the wrong way. Heliostats placed outside these cold /dark rooms can direct warmth and light into the rooms, transforming them into enjoyable, comfortable spaces. Each H1 Heliostat can deliver over 1000 watts to a room, or over 115,000 lumens of light. Multiple H1s can be combined to warm a single room faster, or you can use several H1 heliostats to warm different spaces simultaneously. Applications include schools, office buildings, homes, industrial workspaces, farm buildings, and many other architectural uses.
I Read About a Less Expensive Heliostat. Is the H1 a Better Investment?
The LightManufacturing H1 heliostat is a powerful commercial-grade heliostat, with a number of advantages over ‘home heliostat’ systems.
  • The H1 heliostat uses safe, aluminum composite mirrors which are shatterproof and tough, not glass like other heliostats.  The H1 mirrors shrug off impact.
  • The H1 heliostat uses only aircraft-grade aluminum structural elements for maximum durability, not plastic like other heliostats.
  • The H1 heliostat can be aimed exactly using your web browser, unlike other heliostats which require you to hand-aim the mirrors at a target.
  • The H1 heliostat can change target easily between multiple targets you define, unlike other heliostats.
  • The H1 heliostat is MUCH larger and captures more light and heat than small ‘home heliostats’.  A H1 with 4′ square mirror has a mirror area of1.5 square meters, as compared to consumer heliostats with mirrors only 0.5 square meters or less.
  • The H1 costs less per watt/lumen than any other heliostat on the market.  Purchase price of the H1 may be higher, but when you calculate the cost / square meter of mirror you’ll quickly see the advantage of the H1.
  • You can combine multiple H1 heliostats to deliver unlimited heat/light to targets you define, and you can switch all of your H1s from target to target with a single command.
How Much Energy does the H1 Heliostat Capture?
The standard H1 heliostat ships with a 1.21M x 1.21M (48″ square) aluminum composite reflector. 
  • The 48″ square mirror reflects over 1000 watts onto a target in optimal conditions, or over 115,000 lumens if used for lighting applications.   This is the most energy/light captured by a commercially available heliostat.
In contrast to the H1, some smaller / consumer-oriented heliostats offer a mirror only .5 square meters in area, reflecting @ 425 watts of energy.  It would take 4 or 5 of these small units to equal one H1 heliostat.
Do you make Solar Furnace / Solar Oven Systems?
LightManufacturing H1 Heliostats are ideal for solar furnace, solar oven, and similar applications.  Each H1 heliostat captures up to 2000 watts of solar heat, and directs it to a cooker, water heater, roasting enclosure, or other solar oven/furnace design.  Multiple H1 heliostats can target the same enclosure to deliver very large amounts of heat. Depending on your application, LightManufacturing  can supply ISO shipping container based sun furnace target enclosures, or you may construct your own target from locally available materials. Similar terms:  sun furnace, solar furnace, solar oven, sun oven. Note:  Solar Rotational Molding is covered by our several US and international patents. SRM systems are available for sale, and the technology may be licensed to qualified partners.
Can Heliostats Enhance Flat Plate Thermal Collectors?
Yes – if you have a flat plate thermal collector (for example, for making hot water or hot air) the LightManufacturing H1 heliostats can help.  Fixed position flat plate collectors typically do not work well in the morning or later afternoon, because they are installed in a ‘best average’ position to maximize mid-day solar absorption.    This means less hot water or hot air at non-peak times. Solution:  Use h1 heliostats to direct solar energy to your flat plate collector at off-peak times. However- in many cases the additional cost of adding a heliostat to a fixed flat-plate collector may not make sense.  Each case is different.

Solar Rotational Molding

What is Rotational Molding?
Rotational molding is a globally-used technique for making large plastic objects.  Over 3.6 billion pounds of plastic are rotationally molded each year.  Unfortunately, the process is energy intensive and uses non-renewable energy sources like natural gas and kerosene.   Over 18.4 trillion BTU of fossil fuel is consumed by the rotational molding process,  generating over 2.15 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses annually. Rotational molding is an excellent way to make large, life-improving products like water and septic tanks, boats, docks, toys, and much more.  Solar Rotational Molding helps this global process cheaper to operate and much more sustainable.
How does LightManufacturing Improve Rotomolding?
LightManufacturing’s patented SRM (Solar Rotational Molding) process uses sun-tracking mirrors called heliostats, to concentrate solar energy on a rotational mold.   We have developed a uniquely capable heliostat, called the H1.  Heat from the sun directly warms the mold, melting the plastic.  Because the process uses heat directly in the molding process, the system is highly efficient:  75% efficient as compared to typical photovoltaic efficiency of 15% or less.  There’s no need to convert light into electricity, nor does energy have to be transported via expensive transmission lines to market. Zero pollution is generated in SRM, and all fuel costs are eliminated.
Is Solar Rotational Molding Open Source or Public Domain?
SRM™ (Solar Rotational Molding) is a patented process, with rights held by LightManufacturing Inc. who developed the technology.   We build and sell complete SRM systems, and in some cases supply technology under license.  SRM systems are not available in kit form, and they are not public domain (building SRM systems requires writted permission to use our technology).  We work with NGOs and non-profits, as well as government entities and commercial partners.  Contact Us with your project, we’d like to learn more.
Is Solar Molding Economically Competitive? (Are Subsidies Needed?)
Yes.  Unlike inefficient solar-electric systems, our solar thermal systems capture and use over 75% of incident solar heat.  Also, the purchase cost of our heliostats and molding systems is much less than the equipment needed for traditional gas-fired plastic molding. The result?  Lower buy-in costs AND  lower operating costs.   Solar thermal plastic molding out-competes traditional processes without subsidies – a rarity in the clean-tech world.     CapEx, OpEx, and Transport costs are all much less than traditional molding.
Does LightManufacturing make Solar Powered Shredders?
Yes.  We make several models of solar powered shredder.  These devices allow you to shred mixed plastic types into small particles that can be ingested into LightManufacturing Solar Rotational Molding systems.  This allows for closed-loop / local re-processing of waste materials.   Shredded plastic is also dense and can be efficiently transported to larger facilities for re-processing.  
Can SRM Use Beach Plastic Waste or Landfill Plastic Waste?
Yes, Solar Rotational Molding can ingest / use beach-collected plastic waste with good results, particularly if the product design is tolerant of thick walls to make up for the reduced strength of environmentally-degraded plastics.  With the use of a small percentage of ‘bonding’ resin (new plastic that is good at binding different plastics and contaminants together, plastic parts can be molded at 60% beach plastic waste or more.  Landfill-sourced plastics can also be used, at even higher percentages if of known type (eg sorted polyethylene).
What Polymers can the Solar Rotomolding System Use?
Any rotational molding resin can be molded using SRM, including polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, and other polymers. The SRM process uses CSP / Concentrated Solar Power to achieve any desired molding temperature, and often with cycle times less than ordinary rotomolding. Contact us to learn how we can help convert your traditional operation to a low-cost, sustainable manufacturing operation.
Isn’t All Plastic and Plastic Molding Environmentally ‘Bad’?
Rotational molding, and Solar Rotational Molding (SRM) can use a variety of plastics – including virgin (new) material, and recycled material.  New plastic made from fossil fuel sources has environmental issues, but the longevity and reliability of rotationally molded plastic parts can make them compelling ‘green’ choices over the life of the product – particularly if some recycled content is used. Thermoplastic objects are highly recyclable, a significant benefit in end-of-life reuse.  Solar Rotational Molding is an excellent way to close the loop and reuse post industrial and post consumer plastic for new products.  Finally, new plant-based plastics offer a source for high performance, rotationally-molded materials. By removing energy costs from the molding process, SRM makes molding ANY plastic more sustainable and affordable, while reducing greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.  SRM applies Concentrated Solar Power / CSP to a globally-deployed industrial ”smokestack process”, and converts it into a sustainable manufacturing process – a cleantech ‘good citizen’.
Isn’t Plastic Molding Mostly Done in a Few Large Manufacturing Areas?
Most people think of injection molding when they think of plastic manufacturing – this process is very capital intensive, and produces high volumes of relatively small, thin-walled objects – i.e. plastic cutlery, small toys, flashlight bodies, etc. Rotational molding is best at making relatively large objects – from something 6″ across to very large objects such as 8′ diameter water tanks or 10′ long boats, with walls up to 1″ thick.  These large, heavy objects do not pack efficiently, and shipping them is essentially to ‘ship air’.  As a result, Rotational Molding is distributed across all markets – European Rotomolders making parts for Europe and for export, Asian rotomolders making parts for Asia and for export, etc.  The distributed nature of rotational molding allows LightManufacturing’s SRM process to be deployed as needed in solar-rich regions.
How Much Mirror Area / Heat is Needed to Mold Typical Plastic Parts.
Because Solar Rotational Molding uses concentrated solar thermal energy, not solar electricity, it converts a very high percentage of available solar energy to useful heat.  SRM achieves  75% typical efficiency, vs solar electric’s 15-20% efficiency. This efficiency, combined with LightManufacturing’s heat management, positioning, and process control software allow mirror arrays as small as 30 m2 to generate sufficient heat to mold objects 1x1xm.  A key difference between SRM and traditional rotational molding is that SRM heats the mold target by radiative heating (efficient, directly heats the metal) vs convective heating (gas burner heats air, which inefficiently heats the metal).    35 heliostat SRM systems routinely mold 2000L water tanks. Solar Rotational Molding is convered by several US an international patents, and is available as complete working systems (not kits or DIY solutions).
Does the Solar Rotational Molding Process use ANY Electricity?
Yes – electricity is used to position the heliostats, and electricity is used to drive the two motors in each molding armature.   For small to midsized molds, these motors are 1/2 horsepower and require a total of @ 745 watts peak power. Our Solar Rotational Molding systems include photovoltaic panels, batteries, and charge controllers – you can install an SRM system anywhere.  No grid-tie electricity is needed.
How Large are SRM™ (Solar Rotational Molding) Systems?
Solar Rotational Molding Systems install into areas as small as 60′ x 60′ (3600 ft2).  However, most of this area is unmodified; it can be left as unimproved land, or even planted with low-height crops.  Here is how the land is used:
  • Heliostat array footprint @ 60′ x 10′ (600 ft2)
  • Target enclosure footprint @ 20 ‘x 8′ (160 ft2)
  • Raw materials, tools, and finished part storage (typical) 300 ft2
Total: 1060 ft2    So, just 30% of the 3600 ft2 total area is occupied by objects.  The balance of the land remains unchanged.  Compared with the concrete-slab required to support a traditional rotational molding operation, SRM offers a far less impactful solution. Large SRM systems scale as big as needed – 12 systems pack into a single acre of land.
Do you make Solar Furnace / Solar Oven Systems?
LightManufacturing H1 Heliostats are ideal for solar furnace, solar oven, and similar applications.  Each H1 heliostat captures up to 2000 watts of solar heat, and directs it to a cooker, water heater, roasting enclosure, or other solar oven/furnace design.  Multiple H1 heliostats can target the same enclosure to deliver very large amounts of heat. Depending on your application, LightManufacturing  can supply ISO shipping container based sun furnace target enclosures, or you may construct your own target from locally available materials. Similar terms:  sun furnace, solar furnace, solar oven, sun oven. Note:  Solar Rotational Molding is covered by our several US and international patents. SRM systems are available for sale, and the technology may be licensed to qualified partners.