Air HES blimp
September 8, 2014

Proposed Device Looks To Use Cloud Moisture To Develop Energy, Drinking Water

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The search for new sources of renewable energy and clean water has led one Russian scientist to look to the skies, as he and his colleagues are developing a new device capable of collecting moisture from clouds and channeling it back down to Earth so that it can be used for drinkable H2O and electricity generation.

The device is known as the air hydroelectric station (Air HES), and it features both a weather balloon stationed thousands of meters into the atmosphere and a unit that collects cloud moisture. The moisture is then sent to the ground through conduit attachments, where a turbo generator creates energy from the water pressure.

Air HES was developed by a team of scientists led by Andrew Kazantsev, and he told redOrbit via email the company had already completed a prototype capable of producing approximately five liters of water from low level clouds in about one hour. Kazantsev and his colleagues have recently launched an Indiegogo campaign with the hopes they will be able to secure the $14,000 in funding required to complete a full-scale version of the Air HES device.

The primary component of Air HES is the cloud collector, which is a vertically-hanging curtain of vapor-condensing mesh that traps moisture in its fibers as the clouds pass through it, explained Colin Jeffrey of the website Gizmag. The water then travels down a special coating on the mesh, where it is collected in a reservoir at the base and funneled to the attachments.

The Air HES is lifted into the sky using an aerostat, which the research team compares to a blimp or a large weather balloon. The aerostat is typically used to monitor climate conditions in the stratosphere, and since the device requires a height of just 7,000 feet to reach the mid-level clouds found in the troposphere, it is ideal to serve as the lifting unit for the Air HES, since it is capable of traveling to heights of 60,000 feet to 120,000 feet.

Based on annual precipitation of approximately one meter of rainfall, and given that Air HES collects moisture from clouds, the developers claim their device is capable of producing roughly 800 terawatts (TW) of power – 60 times more than currently needed by the global population, and over 400 times more than all electrical power stations combined, according to their figures. Furthermore, it would be more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.

“The problem of climate imbalance is not just an issue of comfort. This is a problem facing the future of all life on Earth,” they wrote. “Small shifts in climate temperature can cause huge imbalances in ecosystems and affect earth's ability to sustain life. Despite the fact that different climate models give different predictions… we need to focus on the predictions that give us just a few decades before the irreversible consequences.”

Last month, scientists from Princeton and UC Irvine reported that fossil fuels were still the predominant source of energy, and that power plants worldwide will be responsible for 300 billion tons of future carbon dioxide emissions. Those experts also said that, unless things change, we can anticipate considerable increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and that projected CO2 emissions of currently established power plants was expected to increase by four percent over their lifespan.

In addition to providing cleaner power, the Air HES could also be able to provide clean drinking water. On its Indiegogo campaign page, Kazantsev’s team not only said that they were “confident” this would be possible, but noted that the prototype had already collected around four liters of water per hour for each square meter of mesh at 4,000 feet. That H2O production could be crucial, as research published earlier this year reported that there could be a shortage of drinking water by the year 2040.