Practical Solar, Inc
Practical Solar is a company located in Boston, Massachusetts.
Practical Solar's HE500 Heliostat System uses sun-tracking mirrors to reflect sunlight to a fixed target. The system is installable by hand, and is easily programmed and controlled with software on the customer's computer. A 1-heliostat system can be used very effectively for natural lighting (e.g. reflecting sunlight through a north-facing window or skylight). The customer does not have to choose only 1 target (e.g. window), since a heliostat can be programmed for multiple targets and switch between them as the customer chooses (using the automatic timer function in the software or selecting manually from a list of targets).
Practical Solar customers also use the HE500 system for the thermal energy (heat) it delivers. In addition to visible light, the sunlight reflected by a heliostat contains 600-700 watts of thermal energy (depending on the quality of mirrors used). This amount of heat is over half that produced by an electric space heater on "high". Customers use this heat (from 1 or several heliostats) for (1) warming rooms (i.e. space heating), (2) melting snow, (3) melting ice dams on rooftops, (4) drying mold on north-facing or shaded exterior walls.
When multiple heliostats are programmed to reflect sunlight to the same target, it is called concentrating solar power. Concentrated solar power can yield higher temperatures for more advanced thermal applications like heating and cooling buildings (the cooling is done with absorption chillers, which use thermal input) and various thermal industrial processes. These systems typically use a thermal "receiver" as the target of the concentrated solar energy. The receiver is integrated with a heat transfer fluid (e.g. water) system to transport the thermal energy to the point of use.
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