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Solar Energy Plays Major Role in one of Google’s Latest Projects

This past Saturday, June 15, 2013 marked the launch of Google’s latest project, which involves using an airborne Loon network to bring wireless internet access to the entire world. As the first Loon got off the ground in Christchurch, New Zealand, it’s only a matter of time before we will find out if this project is the breakthrough Google has been looking for.

As a helium-filled mylar balloon the loon will be floating 12 miles above the surface of the Earth. Inside this balloon is a router, which will provide internet service to an area of nearly 15.5 square miles. As the project develops, more Loons will be incorporated, creating a network that will communicate with each other and with the ground. If all goes as planned, we may find that a grouping of hundreds on Loons can combine to provide worldwide wireless access to the internet.

In order for each Loon to stay afloat, they will be using air currents; if one Loon floats out of range, another will move in to replace it. Now in order for one Loon to keep a relative distance to another and to be able to change altitudes, Google has utilized solar-powered fans that will pump air through the balloon.

According to an article from, the Loon that was launched this past Saturday has “four lightweight photovoltaic panels, which provide enough electricity to power the on-board computers, navigation system, and communications hardware.” While these panels can generate 100 watts during peak sun, not all of that power is used to operate the electronics. Some of the excess is used to generate heat, since it is pretty cold at the altitudes the Loon will float through, while the rest of the power is used to charge the Loon’s batteries.

As you could imagine, it’s the innovative use of solar energy that will play a serious role in the success of this new project. To learn more about this project, feel free to check out the video below!