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Rising to sustainable heights: solar balloons

Swatches | October 1, 2019 | By:

Like a field of sunflowers that tilt their heads towards the sun, the solarCLOUD canopy of solar balloons floats higher in the sky during daylight hours via solar energy. Photos: Superspace.

Imagine a thousand balloons gently floating in the air above a public square collecting energy from the sun. That’s the vision of Superspace, an Istanbul, Turkey-based architecture and design studio. Its design “solarCLOUD” was shortlisted for Land Art Generator, an annual international design event that invites ideas for sustainable energy infrastructures that are also public works of art.

The 2019 competition, held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, asked participants to design a work of art for a landmark site within Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. It called for using renewable energy technology as a medium of creative expression that would provide on-site energy production consistent with the master plan of the city.

SolarCLOUD envisions 1,500 solar balloons aloft above the public space that harvest energy from the sun while providing shade. At night the balloons gently fall to a specified height as they lose heat energy. The canopy becomes a giant media cloud that can host light shows and other programmable digital art. 

The fabric covering for the balloons would be fabSOL, a solar fabric currently in development. Made of lightweight carbon fiber woven with solar cells coated in a conductive polymer material, fabSOL tracks the sun all day long.

The balloons, or pixSOL, are designed to be 6.5 feet wide and filled with
air and helium, secured to the ground with automatic weight-triggered pulley wheels. Together, 1,500 balloons could create a cloud that is larger than an acre in size. For more information, visit

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