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Lindsay Riddell

The Bay Area is a hub for companies developing the technology for some of the world’s largest projects that will harness the sun.

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview here

Rob Lamkin is CEO of Cool Earth Solar, a solar energy company -with a difference. The Cool Earth team (which includes several rocket scientists) has developed low-cost balloon shaped concentrators that capture up to 400 times magnified solar energy. Check out their power station simulation. It looks like a party!

Rob Lamkin discusses

Party time!
From The Economist print edition

Energy: It may sound silly, but metallised balloons could provide an unusually cheap and effective way to generate solar electricity


Investors and analysts have turned cold on concentrators, but two companies say thin plastic films could cut the costs.

It's thin film and solar technology, but not the way it's usually done.

Prism Solar and Cool Earth Solar are trying to exploit the properties and economics of plastic by producing solar concentrators out of the same stuff that wraps Pop Tarts. Cool Earth makes Mylar balloons coated with a thin layer of aluminum that reflects light onto a silicon solar cell. The balloon achieves a 400x concentration of sunlight.

Jaymi Heimbuch
Technology / Solar Technology

Last year we covered Cool Earth Solar's snagging of $21 million in venture funding for its solar concentrating balloon project. CEO Rob Lamkin was at Clean Tech Forum this week and we spoke with him about how they came up with this seemingly odd idea.

by Rob Lamkin

Solar energy is the most promising source of clean, renewable energy. It is also one of the most misunderstood.

Myths about solar energy--its challenges and potential--keep many from seriously considering the large-scale promise of solar to solve the energy crisis.

Utilities may soon be getting megawatts from solar balloon installations. Using small amounts of inexpensive materials…they could scale quickly and become a major energy source.…

Read More

By Bryan Walsh

Concentrated Solar Photovoltaic (CSPV)

Some renewable energy ideas are complicated — it'd take a PhD to explain the biochemical ins and outs of cellulosic ethanol. But others are simple — like concentrated solar photovoltaic.

If you've ever used a magnifying glass to focus the sun's light and burn an unfortunate ant, you've got the gist of it. CSPV plants uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sun's light on an array of solar PV panels, vastly increasing the amount of electricity that can be produced.


13. Cool Earth Solar

Rob Lamkin, CEO, Cool Earth Solar

Solar is poised to become the major player in solving the energy crisis, once the solar industry brings down the costs for utility-scale power production. The stakes for solar -- indeed, for all renewables that are competing in the utility-scale arena -- are huge, as are the goals.

The Economist

SOLAR cells are expensive, so it makes sense to use them efficiently.

San Jose Mercury News
By Matt Nauman, Mercury News

Forgive the folks in Livermore if they think someone is celebrating a birthday. A really big birthday.

But the huge balloon-like objects that will be installed later this month not far from the national laboratory are in fact Cool Earth Solar's solution for capturing the sun's heat.

By Marsha W. Johnston, Contributor

Imagine a 1-megawatt solar power plant that has nothing to do with vast swaths of PV panels or mirrored troughs in a barren desert environment that require new transmission lines to population centers. Instead, picture a rolling, grassy field populated with 500 vertical poles that each hold two 8-foot-wide balloon.

By Kerry A. Dolan
Forbes Magazine

Here's an audacious energy solution: cheap plastic balloons with solar cells inside.

Here’s an audacious bet: Cheap plastic balloons with solar cells inside can solve the world’s energy problem.
Behind a warehouse workshop in Livermore, Calif., an 8-foot shiny plastic balloon soaks up the abundant late September sun. Its shape reflects so much heat to its middle that you can’t leave your hand on it or you’ll burn. Insert a round plate covered with solar cells into the balloon and you may have the next idea in renewable power.

The New Republic

Back in January 2007, the Bush administration was urging the world's scientists to explore the possibility of deploying giant space mirrors that would block sunlight from reaching the Earth and hence reduce global warming. (Really.) The thought here was that this might work as a decent last-ditch save-the-planet gambit if we couldn't get our collective acts together and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions quickly enough.

It sounds like something out of one of those do-it-your-self magazines: Stitch together two buck’s worth of thin-film plastic - the stuff potato chip bags are made of - stick in a photovoltaic cell, inflate with air and, voilà, you’ve got yourself a “solar balloon” that will generate a kilowatt of electricity. String together 10,000 balloons and you’ve got a solar power plant that can power a town.

By Matthew Humphries

When you think of solar panels as an energy solution, you associate them with a large, flat, dark panels positioned on a surface such as an angled roof. Cool Earth Solar (CES) has a solution that is anything but your typical solar panel.

By Martin LaMonica

Cool Earth Solar has one of those radical green-tech ideas that may actually make a real commercial impact.

In the next two weeks, the company plans to start testing a prototype solar plant built around rows of reflective balloons hung on poles. The solar balloons, which are eight feet in diameter, look something like a tube for sledding or laying around the pool, but each one can generate 1 kilowatt of electricity.

An early version of Cool Earth Solar's solar concentrator without the 'receiver' that holds the solar cell.

By Darren Quick

By Tom Schueneman

Livermore, California-based Cool Earth Solar is set to complete construction of their first prototype plant in the next few weeks. If all goes according to plan the new plant will change the shape of renewable energy scalability – literally.

I had the opportunity last week to speak with CEO Rob Lamkin about Cool Earth Solar’s mission and the difficulties facing alternative energy companies. In terms of the challenges of renewable energy, Lamkin was clear and concise: “scalability”.


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