RESEARCH
August 25, 2008

Balloons give rise to new solar energy

Tie a balloon to a generator and it produces electricity as it rises. If the balloon's hot air comes from sunlight the electricity is clean and relatively inexpensive.

The technique relies on heating air with sunlight and channeling the hot air into a balloon. As the balloon rises, its cable unspools from a windlass that rotates a generator like those used in wind turbines. As the balloon rises into the atmosphere the air inside cools, which reduces the amount of energy required to haul the balloon back in. The result is a net gain in electricity.

Balloon solar electricity could supplement wind turbines on low-wind days.

Research paper:
Hot Air Balloon Engine
Renewable Energy, published online August 16, 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Ian Edmonds

Further info:
MW Output Balloon Engines to Meet Renewable Energy Targets -- project page

Back to ERN August 25/September 1, 2008

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