Solar power plants with significant output capacities tend to take up a lot of room. (A major solar installation planned for California, for example, will cover a whopping 7,025 acres of public lands.) Geotectura of Israel has a better idea: modular, scalable solar farms that float in the air.

The SunHopes system is, essentially, a collection of helium balloons outfitted with solar cells that floats aloft, attached to a central pole, creating an image akin to that of a giant plant or flower from afar. Like the leaves of a plant, the semi-transparent balloons are arranged in such a way as to minimize any blockage of the sun’s rays to other balloons.

image via Geotectura

Geotectura envisions a number of twists on the same model, from a simple, helium-filled balloon containing a photovoltaic array on the outer skin surface to a paraboloidic balloon with a transparent upper part and an opaque lower part containing paraboloid-shaped photovoltaic cells on the inner surface (which increases efficiency), to the same balloon where the inner collectors are replaced by mirrors, and the upper transparent part contains an array at the focus point for a paraboloid-shaped mirror (upping the power output through solar concentrating tech).

The designers see this system as being both modular and scalable, suited to the task of producing power in almost any location. SunHopes was a finalist for Italy’s Well-Tech Award for Technological Innovation in 2009 and is a contestant in this year’s GE Ecomagination Challenge.

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