How would you like an engine producing your dear electricity? How would you like that engine to have pistons as high as heat-powered balloons? Well, an environmental consultant from Solartran in Brisbane, Australia, by his name Ian Edmonds, has designed such an energy producing “engine” from the classic and romantic air balloon.
The system works like this: there is a greenhouse on the ground trapping hot air, which is them pumped to fill the balloon. As it rises, the balloon pulls a tether turning an electric generator back on the ground. The balloon can reach an altitude of 3 kilometers, and when it does that, the hot air is release through a vent and it loses buoyancy. It is then pulled to the ground using less energy than it produced, which translates into a power gain.
Ian Edmonds says: “It is like a huge two-stroke engine, with a capacity of 45 million litres, a stroke of 3 kilometres, and a frequency of one revolution per hour”
One of Ian’s balloons produces as much as 50 kW of energy, enough to supply energy to about 10 households. He says doubling its diameter would increase the power production tenfold, substantially reducing costs.
This solar powered alternative energy solution is surely spectacular, but I ask myself: is it worth it? Ok, hot air is hot air, but wouldn’t it be easier to process it here, on the ground, than rise a balloon up to 3 kilometers? That may give a certain area implementing the system a rise in touristic attraction. I would like to go up and down 3 kilometers and I would surely pay for that. Of course, some of the energy would be lost by lifting me and the other passengers, but our money would pay off.
There is another issue with this: 3 km up is open airspace, I wonder if no aircrafts or helicopters would be disturbed by the balloons… just wondering. Besides this, it’s a nice idea.