New commodities are brought to market every day--but when natural light is made commercially available, it outshines them all. While working as an engineer, Duncan Earl, 34, helped develop a hybrid solar lighting system. But when no commercial entity stepped forward to take it to consumers, Earl decided to take a leap of faith in 2004 and launch Sunlight Direct, a producer of alternative energy solutions in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. "It really takes someone willing to go out on a limb," says Earl.
Using a solar collector controlled by a GPS system, mirrors to refocus and separate out the visible light, and optical fibers to transmit it, the system brings light from the outside in. Best of all, the use of natural light not only reduces energy costs, but also increases employee productivity and boosts consumer spending. The system will be commercially available in March but has been undergoing customer-funded beta tests since last May, which helped Sunlight Direct secure $750,000 in revenue for 2006.