25 June 2007

Watch Out for Flying Generators!

Previous proposals suggested floating wind generators on helium balloons. Now, Israeli researchers are proposing floating photovoltaic cells on helium balloons, for off-grid applications.
Gurfil and doctoral student Yossi Corrie developed a technique of using helium-filled balloons coated with solar energy cells to provide electricity. The same cable that brings the helium to the balloon will also carry the electricity to the ground.

The Technion researchers estimate that each home or apartment would need only two balloons. If they were mass produced, their cost could be reduced below the estimated $700 per square meter of today's solar cells.

The pair filed a patent application for their invention and hope the technology will compete with existing power producers.

Coated helium balloons could be used, at first, to supply electricity to ships and homes in jungles, deserts and other isolated spots off electricity grids.

This is not a particularly good idea, except perhaps for very isolated locations that just happen to have an excess of helium lying around. As I suggested in this post, flying tethers create a large navigation hazard for aircraft. And as Jeb from Numberwatch pointed out, at the present there are no tether materials known that would be strong enough for gusty winds, light enough not to pull the balloons down, and also have the conductive capacity to carry appreciable current.

If promoters of flying generators can solve those problems, no doubt there are still a few we have not thought of yet.


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Blogger Rik said...

You're better of with something like this: http://www.ockels.nl/!

Tuesday, 26 June, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

That's an interesting concept, rik. I like the idea of keeping the generator on the ground--unless you can put it in orbit.

Saturday, 30 June, 2007  

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