SunHopes – Balloon Based Solar Energy

SunHopes is an innovative concept for harvesting solar energy in a cost-efficient, environmentally friendly way using helium balloons. GEOTECTURA, an architectural studio founded by architect Dr. Joseph (Yossi) Cory, and Dr. Pini Gurfil of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, collaborated on the development of the technique. SunHopes, which was runner-up in the RE:Vision Design Competition, 2007, explores original use of photovoltaic technologies that in the future, may provide portable and infrastructure-free access to electric power.

Dr. Cory and Dr. Gurfil developed a method for transforming solar energy into electrical power via a lighter-than-air helium-filled platform, containing embedded photovoltaic arrays (PVA). By using large, levitating helium balloons called SunHopes, they solved the problem of finding a suitable location for the solar collectors, as they can be built anywhere without taking up ground space.

According to this concept, using different types of balloons in spatial and vertical arrays will enable the production of maximum energy with minimal environmental footprints. The balloons will have of a spherical structure with photovoltaic cells attached to its exterior, a paraboloidic balloon with a transparent upper part and an opaque lower part in which contains paraboloid-shaped photovoltaic cells on the inner surface, a balloon with mirrors instead of inner collectors and an upper transparent part that contains a PVA at the focus of the inner paraboloid-shaped mirror.

A prototype of SunHopes was built and operated in November 2007. “The goal is to develop an efficient, portable, land area-independent, inexpensive and reliable energy source for all, thus contributing to promoting society by decentralizing and diversifying energy resources while generating an ecological coherence between humans and nature.”, explain Cory and Gurfil.

TFOT recently covered a technology named “Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion” (OTEC) that may enable the establishment of an efficient energy storage system across the world, supplying enough energy for our entire planet. TFOT also covered a large-scale solar tower developed by the “EnviroMission” Company. According to the company, the solar tower will be capable of supplying electricity to 200,000 typical Australian homes.

More information about SunHopes can be found at GEOTECTURA’s official website.