They say hope floats. Israel’s premiere environmental architecture firm Geotectura has certainly taken this statement to heart. Joseph Cory a designer at Geotectura, has worked with an aerospace engineer, to develop floating solar balloons capable of collecting solar energy in crowded cityscapes and places where large solar panels are not a viable alternative. They hold potential for disaster-stricken areas as well.
Filled with helium and coated with a space-age fabric made from photovoltaic solar cells, this project called SunHope is a promising low-cost system that could collect solar energy with less environmental impact than other traditional solar energy solutions.
Traditional solar systems, report Inhabitat, have daunting barriers to entry: they require high initial investments, large land requirements, and an in-depth installation process. On the other hand, the Sunhope project can go around these problems by constructing low-cost photovoltaic arrays designed for vertical rather than the horizontal space.
“These solar balloons are as low-impact as power plants get, since their infrastructure is composed entirely of a control panel, a helium supply cable, and a power cable,” writes Inhabitat. Cory and his science partner Prof. Gurfil from the Technion in Israel, estimate that only one or two of their balloons could power your home; multiple balloons can be linked to power apartments and entire communities. Plus they look so futuristic and pretty!
Also ideal for off-grid applications, these solar energy balloons could power tribes in the middle of the desert, people living in isolated islands; they can be connected to ocean-bound freighters, power homes in heavily forested areas; and since they are easy to deploy, we imagine they could offer quick power relief opportunities in disaster stricken areas.
Several prototypes have been developed to show that a 10 ft balloon could provide about a kilowatt of energy roughly equal to about 25 square meters of solar panels. The cost? About $4,000 per balloon, compared to the $10,000 for a solar field. With the rising costs of electricity in Israel and the world (our bill is the highest it has ever been this month), we can hardly wait until SunHope starts production. This Green Prophet would be a buyer for sure.
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