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Sky-high solar balloons operating as energy storage

sky high solar balloons
NextPV demonstrates how the solar balloons storage system will operate when installed. Pic credit ixScience.fr/ Grégoire Cirade

In international news, a team of Japanese and French researchers on solar photovoltaic, NextPV, based in Tokyo are currently working on a solar balloon concept that could be deployed as an energy storage system.

Solar balloons generate power when cloudy

The energy storage system is planned to involve a combination of solar PV panels, hydrogen production and fuel cells, which are to be placed as solar balloons above the clouds enabling solar PV to continue generating power even  when its cloudy, reports TreeHugger.

NextPV lab co-director and senior researcher, Jean-Francois Guillemoles, said: “The main problem with photovoltaic energy is that sunlight can be obscured by clouds, which makes electrical production intermittent and uncertain.

“But above the cloud cover, the sun shines all day, every day.”

Guillemoles furthered explained that: “Anywhere above the planet, there are very few clouds at an altitude of 6km—and none at all at 20km.

“At those heights, the light comes directly from the sun, as there are no shadows and hardly any diffusion by the atmosphere. As the sky loses its blue colour, direct illumination becomes more intense: the concentration of solar energy results in more effective conversion, and hence higher yields.”

Generators equip solar balloons

The Huffington Post also reported that the researchers are currently investigating the utilisation of lightweight polymers to make gigantic solar panel balloons, which are to be supplied with generators.

The balloons would then be bound to the ground, and their cables would transmit the electric power down to earth.

Guillemoles highlighted that the idea is to float the generators just above the clouds, approximately 6km high but also below airline routes.

He further revealed a potential long-term option, which would be for the balloons themselves to float much higher, at a height of about 20 kilometres.

Guillemoles noted “It [the concept] has the potential to make solar energy more sustainable and faster to deploy at a large scale.”

Homepage image credit: E.Jullien/PixScience. An artist’s rendering of a “flying” solar farm.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.