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 put solar panels on balloons?

solar-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.