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Could Hot Air Balloons Replace Wind Turbines?

Many people complain about the unsightliness of wind turbines, but I’ve never met anyone who has a problem with hot air balloons— and that’s precisely why balloon power could catch on.

Environmental consultant Ian Edmonds has developed a “balloon engine” that could potentially compete with wind power. According to Edmonds, a 44 meter-diameter balloon could generate 50 kW of power—enough energy for 10 homes. If the balloon’s diameter is doubled, power production increases tenfold.

Edmond’s system works by using solar energy to fill a balloon with hot air. The rising balloon pulls a tether, which turns a generator on the ground. Once the balloon has floated up to 3 kilometers, air is released and it loses buoyancy. The balloon needs less energy to be pulled down and a net power gain is reached as a result.

What do you think— would NIMBY-ers protest hot air balloons?

Photo Credit: CC licensed by Flickr user Soller Photo

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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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