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Published on September 30th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz


Cool Earth Solar Constructing First Solar "Balloon" Prototype Plant

September 30th, 2008 by  

cool earth solar

We’ve written about Livermore, CA-based startup Cool Earth Solar before. Now the company, which develops inflatable balloon-like solar concentrators, has announced that it is constructing a prototype plant in Livermore. Last week, I spoke to Cool Earth Solar CEO Rob Lamkin to get some more information on the upcoming project.

According to Lamkin, the prototype plant will be online in approximately two months. The company plans to test out different solar concentrator designs at the plant to prove out the technology. This winter, Cool Earth will launch its first commercial-grade power plant. The plant will be relatively small— only 1.4 MW— but Cool Earth plans on launching a full-size plant (10 to 30 MW) by next summer.

If the prototype plant is successful, Cool Earth wants to expand far beyond the Livermore area. “Initially, we’ll be be doing projects in California and the Southwest, but we do want to expand overseas,” Lamkin said. “To address the global energy problem, we’ve got to scale bigtime worldwide.”

Cool Earth Solar’s design is unique in the solar energy world. The company uses an inflatable plastic thin-film balloon (solar concentrator) that, upon inflation, focuses sunlight onto a photovoltaic cell held at its focal point. The design produces 400 times the electricity that a solar cell would create without the company’s concentrator.

Additionally, Cool Earth’s balloons are already price-competitive with natural gas-derived electricity. “Plastic thin film is abundant and cheap,” said Lamkin. “It only costs two dollars for the plastic material necessary for our solar concentrator.”

Keep watching Cool Earth Solar— I have a feeling that this company will become a household name in the near future. 


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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

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