Arc Ascending

Our high-altitude blogazine

Flying Solar

A duck flying over water

Our world is facing some big challenges. And tackling them will require big changes in our everyday lives – in the ways we eat or dress, travel, work and relax and also in the types of recreation we choose.

Perhaps that’s why ‘enjoy’ isn’t a word you hear so much when climate change comes into the conversation.

It’s true that achieving a sustainable and enjoyable future will be hard. But it is possible.

An attraction idea as big as Arc inevitably means some impact. But to fulfil our responsibility in creating that future, we’re making Arc an incredibly low-impact invention, and ensure that people’s enjoyment of it will be powered by the Sun and its own clean energy.

Taking the balanced approach…

How do we do this? At it’s simplest, Arc is a brilliant balancing act. At one end you have an enormous triangular counterweight, at the other a glass capsule (which weighs a paltry ten tonnes). The fulcrum point is positioned so Arc sits in perfect equilibrium and does not move unless it is powered.

But it only needs enough power to gently move the counterweight down – gravity does the rest. And that power comes from solar energy.

An array of photovoltaic panels on a rooftop area the size of Arc’s flight gallery will capture 8 times the energy Arc will use. What’s more, most of the energy which is used to make Arc tilt and turn can also be recovered and used again!

This is done by using a process to slow Arc down called 'regenerative braking'. Regenerative braking is fundamental to efficient electric car design, and is found in models like the Toyota Prius or the Tesla Roadster. So you could say that Arc makes its own power, too.

The next question is: where do you actually store all that power?

yacht batteryA solid solution

Arc’s designers looked at a variety of options, including converting dedicated areas of an adjacent building to house batteries, or concealing those batteries in perimeter barriers which could also be used as security measures against vehicle attacks. But our eventual solution proved to be making the most of what we already have.

Arc will sit above We The Curious, which uses a lot of energy for its heating, lighting, exhibits, etc.  When the sun shines brightly and there is spare energy from an array of photovoltaic solar panels mounted on the Flight Gallery roof, this energy will reduce We The Curious' need to draw energy from the national grid.  At night and other times of poor solar yield, Arc will draw back some of this 'virtual storage' - the net effect over the year will mean that Arc will be totally solar powered and reduce We The Curious' total energy bill.  Marvellous!


Nick Stubbs is the inventor of Arc. An architect and chartered environmentalist he is passionate about sustainability and projects that offer practical real-world solutions to global challenges.