It’s easy to mistake these buoyant solar panels from CoolEarth for a child’s balloons caught in a power line, but these shiny floating photovoltaic panels are scientist’s latest attempt at getting the highest possible efficiency out of a solar cell with the fewest materials. The Solar Balloon’s light material and bowl-like shape allows for sunlight to be directed to its center without having to track the sun’s movement throughout the day.
The concentrated solar collectors direct the sunlight to a solar panel, regardless of where the sun is in the sky, instead of trying to track the moving sun. The eight foot balloon is divided into two parts, with one half made out of a polished mirror-like material and the other of a transparent polymer. The spherical shape of the balloon ensures that as long as the sun is shining upon it, that sunlight will be concentrated towards the solar cell.
CoolEarth claims that by using this technology, they can get the cost of solar power to a level similar to that of natural gas. The balloons aren’t meant for personal use, as the size makes them unwieldy for most urban uses. The company is exploring locating them around farmland, where the open fields would allow the installation of a large number of them. CoolEarth has just gotten about $21 million in funding so expect to hear more news from them soon.