Giant solar balloons may be one of the cheapest ways to provide electricity to areas that lack land and infrastructure needed for traditional systems. As the world races to find alternative power, many innovative ways are pushing big companies to adopt plans for clean energy.
Southern California Edison has announced plans to build the largest photovoltaic solar system in the United States at 250 megawatts, which is enough to power 162,000 homes.
Last year, an Israeli scientist at Haifa’s Technion Israel Institute of Technology had developed a way to use helium balloons made from fabric coasted photovoltaic solar cells. The balloons were found to be much cheaper and easy to install, as they are only connected to the ground via 2 cables, one to refill helium and the other to pass electricity to a control panel. The balloons would be connected to one another vertically, one meter apart, going up hundred of meters into the sky (see photo).
As for Edison, it will be about a year before the system is ready. Research has shown that a balloon with a 3 metre (10 ft) diameter could provide about one kilowatt of energy, the equivalence of 25 square metres (269 square feet) of traditional solar panels. While 25 square metres of solar panels may cost $10,00, the estimated cost of each balloon is less than $4,000 since minimal structure support is needed.