What if we store air in underwater balloons to make electricity?

hydricity-balloonsBalloons are popular when it comes to imagining the science future.

Canadian company Hydrostor came up with a way to store compressed air in balloons underwater that can be used to create electricity when needed.

From a Hydrostor press release: “The technology works by running electricity through a compressor and converting it into compressed air. The compressed air is sent underwater where it is stored in large balloon-like structures. When electricity is needed again, the weight of the water pushes the air to the surface through an airline to an expander which converts the air back into electricity.”

Hydrostor has a system running in Toronto. It’s managed by the utility company which will “store electricity during off-peak hours when demand is low and electricity is cheapest, and return the stored electricity during times of high demand or during short-term power outages.”

According to Greentech Media, the base balloon storage system is designed to work at 650 feet deep about two miles offshore and will be marketed to island nations. The Toronto system is about two miles offshore in Lake Ontario at 180 feet deep.

Lake Ontario has an average depth of 283 feet. Lake Pontchartrain has an average depth of 12 feet.  So, if we used a storage system like this, it would have to be off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico, unless we can modify it to work in shallow water.

Hydrostor has a YouTube video showing how they drill a pipe to the offshore location of the balloon storage.  (Off topic: excellent choice of background music.)

We know a thing or two about offshore drilling in Louisiana.  So, I think we can do this one.  I’ll add it to the Science Future Map in the Gulf.

What if we had a high speed maglev transport to the north shore?


I lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a short while. I was envious of its public transportation system, particularly the Metro.

The Science Future Map of Greater New Orleans needs a similar metro system. Part of that could be a high speed maglev (magnetic levitation) transport to the north shore.

Around the year 2000, the federal government was considering funding a Lake Pontchartrain maglev line. It didn’t happen. (New Orleans is still a part of the government’s plans for high speed rail.)

A maglev train actually levitates. The Guardian has a good explainer. That’s some real science future action.

It can also travel more than 300 mph. At that speed, the trip over Lake Pontchartrain (approximately 25 miles) would take five minutes.

I would put a station on the north shore at the intersection of Interstate 12 and Highway 190 and a south shore station at Lakeside Mall. It’s about a 30-mile trip, which would take six minutes at 300 mph.

What if outdoor gyms produced electricity?


A British company makes outdoor gyms that harness the energy of the people working out.

The electricity generated by exercisers can power the lights of the outdoor gym and charge phones.

The equipment can produce up to 400W, though 100W is more likely for the average non-athlete.

I can’t see this powering city services.  But, there plenty of opportunities for these in parks.  City Park has an outdoor gym already.  The Lafitte Greenway is under construction.  In both cases, the output could offset energy costs.


Of course, it would require usage to be constant and consistent.  Most of the science future scenarios I imagine on the website assume that the population of Greater New Orleans increases.  I don’t see why we can’t be a major metropolis, like New York and Los Angeles.  Therefore, I’ll say outdoor electricity-generating parks have a place in our science future.

What if hotel islands could protect the coast?


Luca Curci Architects designed a concept for a megalopolis in the Persian Gulf based on “Organic Cities.”

Part of the design included “moons” — hotels and apartments in the water. They are crescent-shaped, which allows them to form a beach inside the crescent as the waves bring in sand and sediment. They look like coves in the middle of the water.

Line up a few of these off the coast, and they can act as barrier islands. Plus, they look cool.

The hotels could also give Louisiana a French Riviera of the South. And, the residences could include fishing camps. They would protect the coast and provide a source of revenue.

They are added to the Science Future Map.

What if we put solar panels on balloons?


An electro-chemist with the Japanese-French laboratory NextPV is studying the idea of putting solar cells on balloons and floating them high in the sky. This would make the solar cells “five times more abundant than on the ground.”

New Orleans is already a Top 10 solar energy city according to at least one report. Cloudy days and rain prevent 43% of the sunlight we could could get each year. Solar balloons would immediately improve that percentage because they would be above the clouds.

Potential problems would include airspace. Planes, helicopters, and drones would have to stay clear. And birds beware.

The balloons would have to be connected to the ground by cables. The cables would move around depending on the wind. So, solar balloon farms would use up a lot of surface area. We could put the solar balloon farms in Lake Pontchartrain and reroute airport traffic.

I like this idea. I am adding it to the Science Future Map.