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Solar cells that generate electricity are all the rage, but what if you could boost their power dramatically by increasing the amount of sunlight that hits them? The startup Cool Earth uses air-filled balloons to focus the sun on a solar chip lodged within.

Founded: 2007

Mavis Scanlon
Staff reporter

Solar startup Cool Earth Solar is building a small prototype solar plant near its Livermore headquarters that it says will prove the viability of its new technology to generate electricity from the sun.

But this first proof-of-concept plant is just a start. Using funds from its $21 million Series A funding round that closed in February, Cool Earth is also planning to build a 1.5-megawatt plant near Tracy to prove it can scale its technology, followed by a 10-megawatt solar power plant in the Central Valley.


The Livermore, Calif.-based company says it has broken ground on its first pilot plant and plans to build commercial plants starting next year.

Cool Earth Solar, a startup developing inflatable balloon-like solar concentrators, has broken ground on its first prototype power plant, CEO Rob Lamkin told Greentech Media.

By Ariel Schwartz

We’ve written about Livermore, CA-based startup Cool Earth Solar before. Now the company, which develops inflatable balloon-like solar concentrators, has announced that it is constructing a prototype plant in Livermore. Last week, I spoke to Cool Earth Solar CEO Rob Lamkin to get some more information on the upcoming project.

By TylerColfax

In the seemingly never-ending quest to find alternative energy sources, the wackiest of our nation's scientific minds can hit on some of the most simple and brilliant ideas. This time, it's giant balloons that collect the sun's rays.

Rob Lamkin and Cool Earth Solar have developed a design that tackles alternative energy's scalability issues, by providing more bang for the buck, or in this case, power for square footage.

By Fred Hapgood

One innovator says the greatest threat to a clean-energy world is kids with BB guns.

Cool Earth Solar would like to do things a little differently than other solar energy companies--it plans on using balloons to harness power from the sun.

When it comes to solar energy, the larger the surface area is, the more the energy collected. Instead of using the usual flat PV installations though, or even the mirror-laden solar concentrators, Cool Earth Solar uses balloons. These balloons are actually inflated solar concentrators made out of plastic film that's already used for packaging and of course, air to inflate the balloons with.

Tom Schueneman

Cool Earth Solar says it’s technology will “reshape solar energy” – literally.

One of the more thorny issues with any form renewable energy is collecting it. There is plenty of wind to meet our energy needs, the trick is “harvesting” it. The same goes of solar. As Cool Earth Solar’s CEO Rob Lamkin says, “If you’re going to replace hydrocarbons with solar, you’re going to need a lot of collecting surface.”


In the spectacularly high-growth $20 billion dollar global solar market, CPV is a zero billion-dollar market segment with only a few megawatts deployed, stuck in the middle between the rapidly commodifying silicon solar market and the well-financed high-output concentrated solar thermal market. Concentrated Photovoltaic Technology (CPV) has received more than $350 million in venture capital funding since 2005, tens of millions from the Department of Energy (DOE), and tens of millions from public markets to fund development of this promising solar technology.

Michael Graham Richard
Science / Natural Sciences

CoolEarth Inflatable Solar Balloons
Solar photovoltaic cells are still relatively expensive, so many companies are trying to find ways to reduce the PV surface area that they use. One way to do that is to use concentrators to direct more sunlight to smaller (but usually more efficient) solar panels. But even if you do that, you still have high costs for support materials and the concentrators themselves.

Posted by: Arthur Eves

Corn ethanol may be the methadone of our national oil addiction but its still the first step to a cure. Its biggest strengths and liabilities are its close ties with big agriculture, Farm Belt politicians, and collaborative relationships with big oil and the auto industry. These connections have helped create the infrastructure to support ethanol and other biofuels but may prevent folks from really seeing other possibilities—like this one.

by Martin LaMonica

Can we electrify our way to a cleaner future? New companies commercializing old technologies are trying to make solar and wind more cost-effective.

Which are the companies to watch in clean tech? Most are definitely not household names but they are having an impact.
Below the photo is a list of some of the newsmakers in the renewable energy business, with a focus on start-ups. Along the way, you'll get a feel for the technology categories that define this corner of green tech.

A trial balloon or the face of solar power in the future?

San Jose Mercury News
By Mike Antonucci and Matt Nauman, Mercury News

When the 2008 California Clean Tech Open launched this week in the San Jose City Hall Rotunda, there was no talk about a green bubble.

A green balloon, yes. A green bubble, no.

The judged event, now in its third year, awards cash prizes to entrepreneurs who come up with ideas for energy efficiency, alternative transportation, renewables and three other categories. Winners get a "start-up in a box" prize that includes $50,000, office space for a year and other services.

Dow Jones VentureWire
By Jonathan Shieber

On the heels of raising nearly $21 million of a targeted $26 million Series A round, concentrating photovoltaic technology developer, Cool Earth Solar is planning to raise up to $20 million in debt financing to develop new solar projects, Clean Technology Investor has learned.

Chris Morrison

If solar power is expensive in part because the materials come dearly, then use cheaper materials. That’s the design principle behind thin film solar cells, and now also behind a form of concentrated solar using plastic balloons, designed by a firm called Cool Earth Solar.

Concentrated solar uses mirrors to shine more light onto regular solar photovoltaic cells, in order to get more energy, and thus more profit, out of a single cell. However, the mirrors themselves and machinery needed to keep them precisely aimed usually drive the cost per watt back up.

by Martin LaMonica

Cool Earth Solar on Thursday said it has raised at least $21 million to further develop a solar generator that you could mistake for a shiny kiddie pool.
The Livermore, Calif.-based company said the Series A round, from undisclosed investors, could be augmented by other investors in 60 days.

A ballon that makes electricty.

Cool Earth Solar has taken a radical approach to building a solar-power plant using a technique called concentrated solar photovoltaics, in which light is magnified onto solar cells to maximize electricity output.

Announces financing and Board of Directors

Cool Earth Solar (CES) has completed first round financing raising almost $1 million in capital. Part of this was first reported in VentureBeat as Cool Earth Solar raises $750,000 for solar power concentration technology. I cite them even though VentureBeat does not cite my posting firsts.

In addition, Mr. Rob Lamkin, Mr. Jon Bonanno, and Dr. Eric Cummings, the CES founder, have been appointed to the Cool Earth Solar Board of Directors.

Rhett A. Butler,

With high energy prices and mounting concerns over human-induced climate change, there is intense interest in renewable energy, especially solar, which produces no pollution and is readily available in the form of sunlight.


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