Balloons: The Key To Solar Energy?

By: Jill Cordes
By: Jill Cordes

When we think of solar energy we usually imagine flat, black panels on angled roofs. But the company Cool Earth Solar is now developing another remarkable solar solution -- Solar Balloons.

While most of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the idea of solar energy, Rob Lamkin of Cool Earth Solar is convinced that if you stitch together two dollars worth of thin film plastic - the shiny kind found in most chip bags - stick a photovoltaic cell into it and blow it up you've just made a solar balloon that can garner up to 1 kilowatt of electricity.

What makes solar balloons a neat idea is the inexpensive approach to generating electricity. Scientists design to manipulate the air pressure inside the balloon in order to alter the shape of the mirrored surface. Cool Earth estimates that they can have a running power plant in six months which should attract the big utilities companies which in California have to obtain 20% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2010.

While this technology is still under development, construction is currently underway at a 1.5-megawatt prototype power plant in Central California.


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