h a l f b a k e r y
It's as much a hovercraft as a pancake is a waffle.
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Use massive, thin, ground-tethered airships to lift enormous thin film solar arrays above cloud level, where they could enjoy more direct sunlight, and send the generated electricity to ground via the tethers - a bit like Glaser's orbital solar power stations, but much cheaper and easier
And the airship can move in or out of position on solar power as well.
This vehicle runs on sunlight, and thus can fly as long as the sun shines (which, of course, it always does above the clouds). You can see the panels inside (see hyperblimp.com for more info). It's made it with off-the-shelf materials, for about $1,000. [James Newton, Aug 04 2010]
Even without thin film panels, a large enough body can lift an array
A group of French engineering students want to see what their solar blimp the helium-filled, solar-panel-studded Sol'r can do. [James Newton, Aug 04 2010]
If the blimp is made of clear material, it can focus the sun as well.
Our inflated solar concentrators, on the other hand, are shaped like balloons and are primarily made of inexpensive and free materials. [James Newton, Aug 04 2010]
||Do you live in a cloudy climate? I think that a miniature prototype is in order. This is necessary to see if it can withstand gale force winds.
||Interesting idea - also, the sun rises earlier and sets
later when you are high up, so as well as getting
above many clouds this would also extend the
operational time a little.
||These blimps would have to be at 100,000 ft (maybe
more?) to effectively avoid weather. That's one big
electrical cable. If someone could solve those
engineering issues, it would be neat.
||Also at those heights, it may be better to have a
wind powered blimp that's tethered to the ground
and getting wind power from 100 km/h+ winds 24/7
in the jet stream.
||If the panels are mounted at the correct angle,
they can be made to track the sun by turning the
||high tech cables would be required, but the
tethers could conduct the power to ground as well
as hold the ship in position.
||Another possibility is beaming the energy to
ground via microwaves... although there are
significant problems with that: Danger on the
ground due to misalignment, losses, cost, and I
think clouds dissipate microwave energy to some
||All in all, this idea is only useful in areas where
intense sunlight is regularly obscured by clouds
and no other energy source is available.
||//Another possibility is beaming the energy to ground via microwaves...//
||Blimps of destruction. Excellent for frying primitive populations that can be found conveniently near the equator.