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An International Balloon Fiesta First!

On the morning of Friday 7th August , history was made. During the 37th Tribute International Balloon Fiesta in Bristol, the first ever solar powered balloon carrying passengers made its maiden voyage. Of the 130 balloons that took part in the festival, only the one was powered by the sun.

Made from polyurethane-coated nylon the balloon has two sides of different colour; one side is black to absorb the heat and cause the balloon to rise, the other side is silver to insulate the balloon and reflect heat. The side facing the sun can be rotated, depending on whether the pilot wants the balloon to ascend (black side) or descend (silver side).

Although the balloon is solar powered, it does have a propane burner just in case; and it’s a good job too. During its maiden flight it had to be used 3 times. The first during the ascent, when a balloon was ascending quickly behind them and the pilot felt it necessary. The second time was because another balloon, shaped like a minion named Stuart came between the solar balloon and the sun, and the third was to ensure a safe landing. However this only used five litres of fuel during the entire 25 minute flight which would usually use up to 60 litres in the same time.

The balloon was designed and constructed in the Cameron Balloons Factory, Bristol in celebration of the city being voted the European Green Capital for the year. The debut was the first flight the balloon undertook, it was its test flight as well, with the perfect flying conditions, bright sunlight and light winds. The fabric is lighter than normal in order to create more lift, as the solar side only heats the air to 40C, half of a standard hot air balloon. The balloon travelled six miles and reached an altitude of 1500ft, before landing in the grounds of Barrow Gurney Hospital.

But it has to be said, the audience were suitably impressed with the simplicity of the design and the resemblance to a standard hot air balloon, rather than over complicating it.

If you want to jump on the solar balloon wagon, we might just be able to help. We have facilities to provide solar and thermal solar panels available on a hire purchase agreement allowing you the client to claim all the feed in tariff. This is just the start, maybe one day you too, could fly a solar powered air balloon.


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