Could These High-Altitude Balloons Be The Future Of Energy?


Featured image: E.Jullien/CNRS/Pixiscience

Solar panels are fantastic. They harness an incredible amount of energy and are relatively easy to install, in addition to many other positives that come along with the technology.

But there’s one slight problem with those sleek panels mounted on an increasing amount of homes and structures around the world:

They don’t work so well on a cloudy day.

On said cloudy day, solar panels are estimated to produce less than 30% of the electricity that they are rated for.


Well that’s it when it comes to the feasibility of solar energy, right?

Actually, not so fast.

What if we could put solar panels above clouds?

That’s exactly what researchers at NextPV have been thinking. NextPV is an international lab operated by France and Tokyo officials. They have been developing solar panels that can be attached to balloons that float 20 kilometers above ground, far above the cloud line.

The design, pictured below in the graphic provided by E. Jullien/CNRS/NextPV, even allows the balloons to be efficient at night.


Now, this plan is not without its challenges. As with many brilliant ideas, cost is a considerable obstacle standing in the way of making this a reality, especially when compared to the relatively low (but still high, mind you) costs of regular, roof-mounted solar panels.

There are also practical considerations to keep in mind, such as how the cables that tether these balloons to earth would be circumnavigated by pilots as well as the risks of having one of these monstrosities come crashing down to earth.

Nonetheless, development of the idea continues as NextPV looks toward launching a prototype.

Read more about the initiative here.

Chris Jafariehimage1

Chris Jafarieh is a Founding Member of Blaqk Diamond Group, a leading commercial real estate and finance firm. He is also the creator of Green Diamond, an environmentally conscious division of Blaqk Diamond Group.

Chris believes that raising awareness through education is the foundation in achieving sustainability in the commercial real estate environment and energy sector.



Thanks to David Wolfe for this article