Energy remains one of the biggest trends in the automation sector. Over the past couple of years, interest in energy saving has moved from being a subject that many thought was just a fad and into the realm of capturing low-hanging fruit for bottom line savings. More and more, I’m seeing it become part of the corporate and automation design culture.
On the subject of energy savings and alternative energy sources, a new technology I came across recently is a portable Airborne Wind Energy System (AWES) from a company called Windlift. When I say airborne, I mean that it flies like a kite. This 12 kW airborne wind energy system uses a tethered, flexible airfoil to replace the blades and tower construction of your traditional wind turbine. This means the system can be mounted to a trailer and provide portable renewable energy in remote off-grid areas.
Windlift has built and is currently testing two 12 kW prototype systems and has developed a conceptual design for a 23 kW Humvee-towable system. As you can guess from the Humvee reference, Windlift is currently being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Here’s basically how it works: The airfoil is tethered to a base station and the tethers are spooled onto a large drum. During the energy generation phase of the cycle, the airfoil is flown in the wind like a kite to maximize the tension in the tethers. As the airfoil moves away from the ground station, the tethers unspool from the drum and turn the generator. Electrical power from the generator is transmitted to a battery bank.
I explain the design of the AWES more in my video blog here.