Gallery: SOLAR BALLOONS: SunHope Renewable Energy


What could be more refreshing than casting off your carbon shackles with a bunch of solar balloons? Our favorite environmental architect visionary, Joseph Cory, of Geotectura has seized this dream with an award winning way to take solar energy to the skies. He’s teamed up with Technion aerospace engineer Dr. Pini Gurfil to develop an an array of helium filled platforms constructed from a new fabric coated with photovoltaic solar cells. Dubbed Sunhope, the project is showing great promise as a low-cost deployable system that would harness solar energy while maintaining a minuscule environmental footprint.

Some of solar energy’s biggest milestones are its daunting barriers to entry: traditional systems require high initial investments, large land requirements, and an in-depth installation process. The Sunhope project seeks to circumvent all of these factors by constructing low-cost photovoltaic arrays designed for vertical clearance rather than horizontal sprawl.

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. Residential possibilities abound, as Cory and Gurfil estimate that one or two balloons would fulfill the electrical needs for one home, and they have suggested that multiple balloons can be linked together to power apartments and communities.

The design is also ideal for a multitude of off-the-grid applications, with the potential to bring power to deserts, isolated islands, ocean-bound freighters, and heavily forested landscapes. Additionally, the balloons’ eminently deployable nature makes them perfect for disaster and emergency situations, since the balloons are quick to set up and can be delivered via air.

Cory and Gurfil have constructed several prototypes and have conducted research to show that a 10 ft balloon could provide around a kilowatt of energy (equivalent to 25 square meters of solar panels). Their target cost is $4,000 per balloon, compared to the $10,000 it would cost for a solar field producing the same amount of energy. The balloons will last about a year without needing maintenance, and Cory and Gurfil are working hard to make the balloons as wind resistant as possible by experimenting with size and structure.

We’ve covered solar balloons in the past, but we were thoroughly impressed by SunHope’s low cost, high mobilization potential, and site-specific versatility.

+ Geotectura

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  1. Charlie January 18, 2015 at 6:51 am

    I love this concept! In fact, it resembles an idea I launched some time ago, for super-scaled “mega-balloons” to be floated above the weather layer of our atmosphere so solar exposure is greater.

    Granted, several engineering issues would need to be overcome, but I believe those are relatively simple things, and the benefit of strategic placement of such a concept is (IMhO) well worth it.

    Have a look! Here’s a link to my concept sketch (hope the link works):

  2. Michael Remick August 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    has any one thought about security. some one say a 10 year-old could wipe out the power grid with a gun real easily!!!!

  3. vinie June 21, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Actually a very good technology i felt with low cost as well as not much land is required.. instead of all this advantages i just want to get confirm some doubts. which i will ask if someone clear me this system’s structure is mounted on ground or it is just floating in air?

  4. alexb889 November 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Very nice site!

  5. WikiFunna December 16, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Is it possible to contact administration?
    Hope for answer

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  7. virendra July 28, 2010 at 6:11 am

    go green

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  9. no one you know March 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    The set up is forgetting one thing… a grounding wire

  10. jaysan November 7, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Will the hot air not work for rising the ballon every morning,at places on the tropical countries.

  11. vijay April 29, 2008 at 7:40 am

    inhabitation is a wonderfull web site

  12. passerby32 April 18, 2008 at 11:46 am

    or have them bout up and down like tidel genators

  13. passerby32 April 18, 2008 at 11:44 am

    why not shape them to turn and shore lighting that way they can gather e.r.g three diffent ways wind solor and lighting strikes

  14. passerby32 April 18, 2008 at 11:40 am

    heres is a idea if the are up so high why not make they store lighthing and also turn in the wind that way we could use e.r.g rain, shine, and snow

  15. ejames429 April 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Are these developers aware that the Earth only has a nine (9) year supply of Helium at the current rate of consumption and that once it is gone it cannot be replaced? This is really impractical and a waste of a precious resource.

  16. setag54321 April 13, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Spirituality = Love, Learning, Evlolvement…..= unending development

  17. Nickscupofwords »... April 11, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    […] it there. Now if these were readily available on the other hand. Then we’d be in business. Click over to Inhabitat for a better run down on why these are awesome and why we’ll probably never […]

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  21. Schodtsl April 11, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Why not shape the solor ballons to spin….combining the best of solar and wind efficiency to produce energy.

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  24. sandbags April 10, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Not a bad idea.

    Have they looked into energy generation from the expansion and cotraction of the balloon during the day?

    I live in an area that gets a massive wet season for 3-4 months of the year. Electrical storms, cyclones etc. I might need some sort of retraction system for these things….

  25. Jac April 10, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    To Brian Lang:
    Hydrogen is not a stable gas. It can trigger an explosion. Helium on the other hand is less reactive. If it really is a by-product of the oil and gas industry, we might as well make full use of it since that industry is not gonna stop anytime soon.

  26. gotrootdude April 10, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Why not just use a temp sensor on the inside and convert some solar energy to heat to keep the balloon up.

  27. Brian Lang April 10, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Hmmm…let’s see. Helium is generally extracted by the Oil and Gas industry as a by-product. So it’s not exactly environmentally friendly. And it’s VERY expensive, and getting more so – there’s a global shortage I believe. Why not use Hydrogen? You would simply provide a source of water, use some of the solar energy generated by this system to crack the water and create hydrogen, and pump the hydrogen into the balloon.
    Some other potential problems:
    * Deploy these in areas where aircraft are not operating. (Are there any of those?)
    * How to handle high winds and different wind speeds at different altitudes.

  28. Mylen April 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    I wonder if this can tough Canadian weather…snow…ice storm…?

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