BY: SWIKAR OLI
A French researcher has a novel idea to improve the efficiency of solar panels by placing them atop hot air balloons and letting them fly. The idea was born because solar power, the probable successor to coal and natural gas in terms of meeting the world’s energy demands, has the potential to shed a nagging block: clouds.
Electro-chemist and Professor Jean-François Guillemoles wants the balloons up 20km and above any clouds. Up there, the sky is not blue. “Direct illumination becomes more intense,” he said. “The concentration of solar energy results in more effective conversion, and hence higher yields.”
“There’s little doubt that these high-flying solar panels would be more effective than ground-based ones,” reports Quartz, but there are issues of financing and feasibility. The project would need new components and technology. Undeterred by the challenge, France’s French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the University of Tokyo have come together to form NextPV, which is exploring the idea.
In concept, the balloon would be tethered to the ground or float freely, gathering juice and storing it in a fuel cell. An attached fuel cell would use the current to produce the hydrogen. The fuel cell would store enough energy to power the balloon for ten days, if need be.
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