The use of alternative energy sources has become more and more essential as the world gets serious about addressing climate change while also addressing the needs of millions of people who have no access to power. Certain areas of the world have been identified as prime spots for solar energy but there has always been one drawback: solar energy can only be harvested in daylight. International research group, NextPV saw this problem as an opportunity to move away from the generic solar panel design by creating a solar balloon able to float above the clouds where the sun is shining all the time.
While still just a concept, the research team from French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Tokyo aim to design a device that generates power around the clock for use on the ground.
“Anywhere above the planet, there are very few clouds at an altitude of 6 km (3.7 miles)—and none at all at 20 km (12.4 miles),” Jean-François Guillemoles, CNRS senior researcher and the French director of NextPV, was quoted as saying. “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 color, direct illumination becomes more intense: the concentration of solar energy results in more effective conversion and hence higher yields.”
The NextPV team further explains that the solar balloons will convert sunlight to electricity during the day and produce hydrogen at night. This means the device will send energy to the ground around the clock.