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Hot air, green invention

Posted by Christopher Shea  January 21, 2009 12:49 PM

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Would the opponents of Cape Wind, the proposed green-energy project that would put 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound, prefer a horizon filled with rising and falling balloons?

An Australian environmental consultant has designed a "hot air balloon engine" that would capture the free energy contained in the sun's rays, just as turbines capture the kinetic energy of moving air.

The design begins with a greenhouse that would gradually heat up and feed air into a balloon; as the balloon climbed, it would tug on a rope tethered to a generator. Once the balloon reached an altitude of 1.8 miles it would deflate and fall, and the cycle would begin anew. "It is like a huge two-stroke engine," Ian Edmonds, the proud inventor, told New Scientist. He estimated that a balloon with a diameter of 144 feet would generate enough electricity to power 10 homes. (The bigger the balloon, the more electricity.)

Engineers have designed towers topped with turbines that capture the energy of hot air rising, but they aren't cost-effective. Balloon farms, on the other hand -- or should we call them hot air farms? -- would cost about as much as wind farms, Edmonds has calculated.

Via Pruned

(Photo: Sky News)

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