Combining solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, hydrogen production, and fuel cells, these solar balloons are meant to be deployed above the clouds.
A team of researchers at NextPV, a lab jointly operated by the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Tokyo, are working toward building a prototype of a unique solar energy solution that could overcome some of the limitations of standard ground-based PV arrays.
Solar has a lot of potential for being a major part of our renewable energy future, from large utility-scale power plants to residential rooftop solar arrays, but standard solar PV systems have a couple of weak points that keep them from being more widely adopted. Aside from the relatively high initial cost of a solar PV array (which has been rapidly dropping but is still out of reach for many people), two other related issues continue to challenge the industry as a whole, namely the need for energy storage for nighttime, and the effects of cloudy or inclement weather on solar electricity production.
The solar balloon concept being developed at NextPV could be one potential solution for both of those issues, as the system combines direct solar electricity production during the day with the production of hydrogen, which serves as an …