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Solar Balloons: Future of Alternative Energy?

23 September 2008

Solar Balloons: Future of Alternative Energy?

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.

Using thin, lightweight film and flexible photovoltaic cells, an 8-foot balloon is inflated and hung low in the sky. With the bottom half covered in cells and the top half transparent to allow light to enter, the balloons are more efficient than standard flat panels.

And Cool Earth Solar ain't just spitting in the wind, they have two proof of concept plants in the works. A quarter-million-watt plant is being built in Livermore, CA and a 1.5-million-watt commercial plant which will use 15,000 balloons is being built in Tracy, CA.

When asked about what the threats to this type of energy's success could be Lamkin said, "I worry some about kids with BB guns."

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