I looked at what modern lighting options exist, and was surprised at how much I didn't know. There are a LOT of ways to light an area, with many strengths and weaknesses associated with each type. High intensity discharge (Also know as HID lights. Both metal halide and high pressure sodium lights fall under this category), incandescent, fluorescent, LED, the list goes on. I quickly narrow it down to a T5 fluorescent, for the following reasons:
1. Low operating temperature. All HID and incandescent lights get very hot, and I didn't really like the thought of cooking the back of my head as I worked. T5s stay relatively cool.
2. High efficiency and lumen maintenance. Although T5s are not quite as efficient as HID lights, they have much better lumen maintenance. Lumen maintenance compares the amount of light produced from a light source when it is brand new to the amount of light output at a specific time in the future. You can view lumen maintenance curves for different bulbs, which was quite useful for making my decision.
3. Wide spread, low shadowing. Because they light emitting surface is so large, shadowing is not a problem with fluorescent lights. Also provides more even coverage over a given area.
4. Cost. The bulbs are cheap and easy to replace individually, and widely available.
Now that I knew a T5 was the type of bulb I wanted, I looked at what was commercially available. Most T5 light are simply put in a one piece housing with a white interior to reflect some of that light downward. As you step up to more advanced (and more expensive) fixtures, individual reflectors are used around each bulb to maximize the amount of light cast downward, thus increasing the overall efficiency of the fixture greatly. These advanced fixtures cost $500 and up for the amount of output I was looking for, which led me to start designing my own. I used 4 ballasts with 12 4 foot high output T5 bulbs, which emits around 60,000 lumens while drawing roughly 700 watts. Compare that to a 100 watt incandescent, which only puts out approximately 1700 lumens. I also installed switches to turn on different banks of bulbs, so I could preserve energy when I didn't need full output.
In the next step, I'll breakdown what's needed and how much it costs.