By John Johnson on Aug 13, 2014

Some three years after Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories started carving out parts of their sites to encourage more successful interactions with industry, both labs have made progress adapting to the fast pace of business.

The goal of their efforts has been to combine the technical creativity of the national laboratories with the market focus of the business world, helping U.S. industry while finding practical outlets for government-sponsored inventions that might have little if any application inside the labs.

By David Mills

An ordinary potato chip bag may hold the future of Cool Earth Solar, a Livermore company seeking new ways to provide cheap solar power.

Since 2007, Cool Earth has been looking for the right stuff — a solar panel material that could be used minimally to drive down the cost and acreage needed to produce power. The answer, they found, was the thin plastic film used in gift wrapping and potato chip bags. Five billion pounds of it are produced every year in the United States.

On February 20, 2013, Cool Earth Solar launched the first demonstration project featuring it's CPV technology. This important project includes a "first of its kind" partnership with Sandia and the Department of Energy.

Please take a moment to watch this engaging video on YouTube featuring our partnership with Sandia Lab and the ribbon cutting ceremony on February 20, 2013.

SFGate by David R. Baker

Most large solar arrays use flat panels or curved mirrors to capture sunlight.

Cool Earth Solar's arrays use big, inflatable plastic tubes.

The Livermore startup, founded in 2007, claims its inflatable gear can generate as much electricity as standard solar systems while using half as much material. That approach could radically cut costs.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors upheld Cool Earth Solar’s application for a solar energy installation in the Altamont, denying an appeal by the Tri-Valley Conservancy (TVC).
Supervisors voted 4-0, at their meeting Feb. 28, with supervisor Nadia Lockyer absent.

Posted by Ryan Scott

There are many new forms of green energy, but perhaps none as interesting as the Cool Earth Solar “Balloon.”

Here’s the concept behind the design:

An inflatable plastic thin-film balloon (solar concentrator) is created

Upon inflation, the balloon focuses sunlight onto a photovoltaic cell held at its focal point

The design produces 400 times the electricity that a solar cell would generate without the Cool Earth’s concentrator

by Derek Markham, Planet Green

Our energy systems are in need of a serious tuneup, for a number of reasons. Using predominantly petroleum (and other fossil fuel) products for energy production has a couple of major drawbacks, including limited supplies, the release of greenhouse gases and other pollutants during use, and for most countries, the dependence on foreign oil and coal supplies (and the inevitable price increases that go along with that).

Cool Earth expands to accommodate technology innovations
By George Avalos
Contra Costa Times

Cool Earth Solar is finding that its business has heated up enough that it will double its space in Livermore and ramp up manufacturing.

Livermore-based Cool Earth Solar has landed $21 million in private financing, including $20 million in venture funding that was preceded by $1 million in angel investments. The company was formed in 2007.

By 3p Contributor
By: Rob Lamkin

In a world where plastic is ubiquitous, enterprising organizations are developing innovative, environmentally responsible applications for plastic. Some companies are producing products that re-imagine plastic waste as a useful resource.

October 2, 2010

“We are honored to be named a finalist in the prestigious 2010 Platts Global Energy Awards competition and pleased to stand alongside so many other distinguished companies,” said Rob Lamkin, CEO of Cool Earth Solar.…

April 2010
By Rob Lamkin

InterPV conducts a series of interviews with solar experts around the world in an effort to get their thoughts on the current status and future prospects for the renewable energy industry and to understand better the solar PV industry in the context of other renewable energy sources.

Sun & Wind Energy 2/2010
by Reid Smith and Lisa Cohn

Cool Earth Solar, California, a concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) company – formed by a group of scientists and engineers from the California Institute of Technology – is now developing an innovative CPV system design made almost entirely of thin film plastic, an inexpensive and abundant resource., the World's #1 Renewable Energy News Source, has announced the finalists for the 2009 Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards. Now readers have the chance to pick their favorite nominee for the Reader's Choice Award.

Online voting for the Reader's Choice Award will be open until January 31. Votes can be cast at the Awards website:

by Carl Joseph

Until now, energy collection has taken the form of oil rigs drilling in oceans, pumps drawing oil from fields, wind turbines dotting mountain ridges and shorelines. A new venture firm is discussing their novel idea of using balloons as a form of energy capture and power source of the future.

Cool Earth Solar is that company and they are from Livermore, California; where they have designed and manufactured the eight foot plastic inflatable’s that they envision will be taking the renewable energy industry by storm.

CoolEarth created an innovative way to harness the sun's energy.

Solar power has become an acceptable and widely used form of alternative, renewable energy around the world.

We have all seen traditional solar panels on homes and businesses. But you have never seen anything like this! Eco Company found a start-up company that is making solar balloons! Yeah balloons. They look like 8 foot party balloons. But these have solar concentrators that harness the power of the sun. Brendan got the assignment to go check them out.

Popular Science

Imagine a UFO parking lot: silver orbs as far as the eye can see.

Cool Earth Solar’s power plants will look like that. The company’s design features inexpensive balloons – plastic film with an aluminum lining – each with a photovoltaic cell at its center. The eight-foot-wide balloons concentrate the sun’s rays onto the solar cell to generate a kilowatt of electricity, 350 times as much as the cell without the balloon.

by David R. Baker

Name: Rob Lamkin
Title: Chief Executive Officer
Company: Cool Earth Solar, Livermore

Lindsay Riddell

The Bay Area is a hub for companies developing the technology for some of the world’s largest projects that will harness the sun.

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview here

Rob Lamkin is CEO of Cool Earth Solar, a solar energy company -with a difference. The Cool Earth team (which includes several rocket scientists) has developed low-cost balloon shaped concentrators that capture up to 400 times magnified solar energy. Check out their power station simulation. It looks like a party!

Rob Lamkin discusses

Party time!
From The Economist print edition

Energy: It may sound silly, but metallised balloons could provide an unusually cheap and effective way to generate solar electricity


Investors and analysts have turned cold on concentrators, but two companies say thin plastic films could cut the costs.

It's thin film and solar technology, but not the way it's usually done.

Prism Solar and Cool Earth Solar are trying to exploit the properties and economics of plastic by producing solar concentrators out of the same stuff that wraps Pop Tarts. Cool Earth makes Mylar balloons coated with a thin layer of aluminum that reflects light onto a silicon solar cell. The balloon achieves a 400x concentration of sunlight.

Jaymi Heimbuch
Technology / Solar Technology

Last year we covered Cool Earth Solar's snagging of $21 million in venture funding for its solar concentrating balloon project. CEO Rob Lamkin was at Clean Tech Forum this week and we spoke with him about how they came up with this seemingly odd idea.

by Rob Lamkin

Solar energy is the most promising source of clean, renewable energy. It is also one of the most misunderstood.

Myths about solar energy--its challenges and potential--keep many from seriously considering the large-scale promise of solar to solve the energy crisis.

Utilities may soon be getting megawatts from solar balloon installations. Using small amounts of inexpensive materials…they could scale quickly and become a major energy source.…

Read More

By Bryan Walsh

Concentrated Solar Photovoltaic (CSPV)

Some renewable energy ideas are complicated — it'd take a PhD to explain the biochemical ins and outs of cellulosic ethanol. But others are simple — like concentrated solar photovoltaic.

If you've ever used a magnifying glass to focus the sun's light and burn an unfortunate ant, you've got the gist of it. CSPV plants uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sun's light on an array of solar PV panels, vastly increasing the amount of electricity that can be produced.


13. Cool Earth Solar

Rob Lamkin, CEO, Cool Earth Solar

Solar is poised to become the major player in solving the energy crisis, once the solar industry brings down the costs for utility-scale power production. The stakes for solar -- indeed, for all renewables that are competing in the utility-scale arena -- are huge, as are the goals.

The Economist

SOLAR cells are expensive, so it makes sense to use them efficiently.

San Jose Mercury News
By Matt Nauman, Mercury News

Forgive the folks in Livermore if they think someone is celebrating a birthday. A really big birthday.

But the huge balloon-like objects that will be installed later this month not far from the national laboratory are in fact Cool Earth Solar's solution for capturing the sun's heat.

By Marsha W. Johnston, Contributor

Imagine a 1-megawatt solar power plant that has nothing to do with vast swaths of PV panels or mirrored troughs in a barren desert environment that require new transmission lines to population centers. Instead, picture a rolling, grassy field populated with 500 vertical poles that each hold two 8-foot-wide balloon.

By Kerry A. Dolan
Forbes Magazine

Here's an audacious energy solution: cheap plastic balloons with solar cells inside.

Here’s an audacious bet: Cheap plastic balloons with solar cells inside can solve the world’s energy problem.
Behind a warehouse workshop in Livermore, Calif., an 8-foot shiny plastic balloon soaks up the abundant late September sun. Its shape reflects so much heat to its middle that you can’t leave your hand on it or you’ll burn. Insert a round plate covered with solar cells into the balloon and you may have the next idea in renewable power.

The New Republic

Back in January 2007, the Bush administration was urging the world's scientists to explore the possibility of deploying giant space mirrors that would block sunlight from reaching the Earth and hence reduce global warming. (Really.) The thought here was that this might work as a decent last-ditch save-the-planet gambit if we couldn't get our collective acts together and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions quickly enough.

It sounds like something out of one of those do-it-your-self magazines: Stitch together two buck’s worth of thin-film plastic - the stuff potato chip bags are made of - stick in a photovoltaic cell, inflate with air and, voilà, you’ve got yourself a “solar balloon” that will generate a kilowatt of electricity. String together 10,000 balloons and you’ve got a solar power plant that can power a town.

By Matthew Humphries

When you think of solar panels as an energy solution, you associate them with a large, flat, dark panels positioned on a surface such as an angled roof. Cool Earth Solar (CES) has a solution that is anything but your typical solar panel.

By Martin LaMonica

Cool Earth Solar has one of those radical green-tech ideas that may actually make a real commercial impact.

In the next two weeks, the company plans to start testing a prototype solar plant built around rows of reflective balloons hung on poles. The solar balloons, which are eight feet in diameter, look something like a tube for sledding or laying around the pool, but each one can generate 1 kilowatt of electricity.

An early version of Cool Earth Solar's solar concentrator without the 'receiver' that holds the solar cell.

By Darren Quick

By Tom Schueneman

Livermore, California-based Cool Earth Solar is set to complete construction of their first prototype plant in the next few weeks. If all goes according to plan the new plant will change the shape of renewable energy scalability – literally.

I had the opportunity last week to speak with CEO Rob Lamkin about Cool Earth Solar’s mission and the difficulties facing alternative energy companies. In terms of the challenges of renewable energy, Lamkin was clear and concise: “scalability”.

Solar cells that generate electricity are all the rage, but what if you could boost their power dramatically by increasing the amount of sunlight that hits them? The startup Cool Earth uses air-filled balloons to focus the sun on a solar chip lodged within.

Founded: 2007

Mavis Scanlon
Staff reporter

Solar startup Cool Earth Solar is building a small prototype solar plant near its Livermore headquarters that it says will prove the viability of its new technology to generate electricity from the sun.

But this first proof-of-concept plant is just a start. Using funds from its $21 million Series A funding round that closed in February, Cool Earth is also planning to build a 1.5-megawatt plant near Tracy to prove it can scale its technology, followed by a 10-megawatt solar power plant in the Central Valley.


The Livermore, Calif.-based company says it has broken ground on its first pilot plant and plans to build commercial plants starting next year.

Cool Earth Solar, a startup developing inflatable balloon-like solar concentrators, has broken ground on its first prototype power plant, CEO Rob Lamkin told Greentech Media.

By Ariel Schwartz

We’ve written about Livermore, CA-based startup Cool Earth Solar before. Now the company, which develops inflatable balloon-like solar concentrators, has announced that it is constructing a prototype plant in Livermore. Last week, I spoke to Cool Earth Solar CEO Rob Lamkin to get some more information on the upcoming project.

By TylerColfax

In the seemingly never-ending quest to find alternative energy sources, the wackiest of our nation's scientific minds can hit on some of the most simple and brilliant ideas. This time, it's giant balloons that collect the sun's rays.

Rob Lamkin and Cool Earth Solar have developed a design that tackles alternative energy's scalability issues, by providing more bang for the buck, or in this case, power for square footage.

By Fred Hapgood

One innovator says the greatest threat to a clean-energy world is kids with BB guns.

Cool Earth Solar would like to do things a little differently than other solar energy companies--it plans on using balloons to harness power from the sun.

When it comes to solar energy, the larger the surface area is, the more the energy collected. Instead of using the usual flat PV installations though, or even the mirror-laden solar concentrators, Cool Earth Solar uses balloons. These balloons are actually inflated solar concentrators made out of plastic film that's already used for packaging and of course, air to inflate the balloons with.

Tom Schueneman

Cool Earth Solar says it’s technology will “reshape solar energy” – literally.

One of the more thorny issues with any form renewable energy is collecting it. There is plenty of wind to meet our energy needs, the trick is “harvesting” it. The same goes of solar. As Cool Earth Solar’s CEO Rob Lamkin says, “If you’re going to replace hydrocarbons with solar, you’re going to need a lot of collecting surface.”


In the spectacularly high-growth $20 billion dollar global solar market, CPV is a zero billion-dollar market segment with only a few megawatts deployed, stuck in the middle between the rapidly commodifying silicon solar market and the well-financed high-output concentrated solar thermal market. Concentrated Photovoltaic Technology (CPV) has received more than $350 million in venture capital funding since 2005, tens of millions from the Department of Energy (DOE), and tens of millions from public markets to fund development of this promising solar technology.

Michael Graham Richard
Science / Natural Sciences

CoolEarth Inflatable Solar Balloons
Solar photovoltaic cells are still relatively expensive, so many companies are trying to find ways to reduce the PV surface area that they use. One way to do that is to use concentrators to direct more sunlight to smaller (but usually more efficient) solar panels. But even if you do that, you still have high costs for support materials and the concentrators themselves.

Posted by: Arthur Eves

Corn ethanol may be the methadone of our national oil addiction but its still the first step to a cure. Its biggest strengths and liabilities are its close ties with big agriculture, Farm Belt politicians, and collaborative relationships with big oil and the auto industry. These connections have helped create the infrastructure to support ethanol and other biofuels but may prevent folks from really seeing other possibilities—like this one.

by Martin LaMonica

Can we electrify our way to a cleaner future? New companies commercializing old technologies are trying to make solar and wind more cost-effective.

Which are the companies to watch in clean tech? Most are definitely not household names but they are having an impact.
Below the photo is a list of some of the newsmakers in the renewable energy business, with a focus on start-ups. Along the way, you'll get a feel for the technology categories that define this corner of green tech.

A trial balloon or the face of solar power in the future?

San Jose Mercury News
By Mike Antonucci and Matt Nauman, Mercury News

When the 2008 California Clean Tech Open launched this week in the San Jose City Hall Rotunda, there was no talk about a green bubble.

A green balloon, yes. A green bubble, no.

The judged event, now in its third year, awards cash prizes to entrepreneurs who come up with ideas for energy efficiency, alternative transportation, renewables and three other categories. Winners get a "start-up in a box" prize that includes $50,000, office space for a year and other services.

Dow Jones VentureWire
By Jonathan Shieber

On the heels of raising nearly $21 million of a targeted $26 million Series A round, concentrating photovoltaic technology developer, Cool Earth Solar is planning to raise up to $20 million in debt financing to develop new solar projects, Clean Technology Investor has learned.

Chris Morrison

If solar power is expensive in part because the materials come dearly, then use cheaper materials. That’s the design principle behind thin film solar cells, and now also behind a form of concentrated solar using plastic balloons, designed by a firm called Cool Earth Solar.

Concentrated solar uses mirrors to shine more light onto regular solar photovoltaic cells, in order to get more energy, and thus more profit, out of a single cell. However, the mirrors themselves and machinery needed to keep them precisely aimed usually drive the cost per watt back up.

by Martin LaMonica

Cool Earth Solar on Thursday said it has raised at least $21 million to further develop a solar generator that you could mistake for a shiny kiddie pool.
The Livermore, Calif.-based company said the Series A round, from undisclosed investors, could be augmented by other investors in 60 days.

A ballon that makes electricty.

Cool Earth Solar has taken a radical approach to building a solar-power plant using a technique called concentrated solar photovoltaics, in which light is magnified onto solar cells to maximize electricity output.

Announces financing and Board of Directors

Cool Earth Solar (CES) has completed first round financing raising almost $1 million in capital. Part of this was first reported in VentureBeat as Cool Earth Solar raises $750,000 for solar power concentration technology. I cite them even though VentureBeat does not cite my posting firsts.

In addition, Mr. Rob Lamkin, Mr. Jon Bonanno, and Dr. Eric Cummings, the CES founder, have been appointed to the Cool Earth Solar Board of Directors.

Rhett A. Butler,

With high energy prices and mounting concerns over human-induced climate change, there is intense interest in renewable energy, especially solar, which produces no pollution and is readily available in the form of sunlight.