I think this is quite an ingenious new direction to take wind turbines as there is a lot of energy to be harvested from winds at high altitudes. If this technology proves itself it could be a real breakthrough for places where there is not a lot of ground space for turbines, but there is still quite a bit of wind. I will be curious to see how it fares in the Alaska test.
Many areas in the world are remote, windy and have no fossil fuels.
According to the video on their site, this generates twice the power of regular wind turbines. How does the cost compare? Currently, wind is more expensive than solar. All clean sources are more expensive than dirty, in dollars anyway.
If it works, will companies and governments invest?
These are great questions, NadineJ. I don't have answers to them at the moment but the company plans to stay in touch with me as they test and have other news to share. This is definitely a great idea with lots of potential, but there is still a lot to be proven here to see if this will really work.
I wonder how they will keep airplanes from hitting the tethers as they might be hard to see. It would be good if they could put a net on both ends of the tunnel to prevent bird deaths. Some birds fly that high.
I also wonder about the vector of force on the tethers at such high angles of elevation. As wind speed increases, the altitude of the turbine would decrease leaving the leeward tethers hanging slack. But I'm sure they have thought this out.
I think what people need to remember here is that the founder of the company does have aeronautical experience at SpaceX. I am sure what he learned there will go a long way to making this concept work.
No kidding 78RPM, 2000' AGL is a pretty good cruising altitude for General Aviation. The balloon would be easy enough to see and avoid in VFR conditions, but the wing-shredding guy wires would be rather frightening, after all, how far would it drift? There was a recent accident where a helicopter was clear of a tower, but clipped a guy wire killing all on board. There aren't too many places with towers that tall, but I always give them a very wide berth. I refer to them as "friendly towers" because they just want to reach up and give your aircraft a big hug.
Interesting article...This prototype is designed for 30 kW of generation. Will the final product be larger? The cost per kWh might be prohibitive at this size?
Another commenter mentions, "which captures much energy [as] than the ones we already have". I do not know where he got this information since I could not find it in the article. Commercial wind turbines in service by utilities produce about 1.3 MW each, or about 43 times as much.
I assume High-Altitude winds remain uni-directional for the most part. Turning and controlling for changing directions, if needed, might be a challenge using long tethers.
I'll be interested to learn more about this project...
Quite a concept, I wonder about how frequect the helium refills will be needed, though. And just like that flying gereator platform that we read about a year ago, bringing power down to the ground is a challenge. To keep the conductors light the voltage goes up, which then dmands separated conductors, and now there is a challenge of keeping them separate. I wonder how the other project is working, and it will be very interesting to see if this project scales up nicely.
That's an interesting application of the technology, Trenth, but I am not exactly sure if I agree with you. Although the fact that there probably wouldn't be a lot of air traffic around in these locations and the fact that they are very remote make them a good option for deployment of this turbine, I wonder whether the infrastructure of those ships could support it? Perhaps military ships but I am not sure about cargo.
I agree that the aviation industry and regulators would be out to kill the spread of these devices. On the other hand, there are large wind turbine farms off the coast of Europe, that I figure would be a major hazard to ships and watercraft.
I guess it's all a matter of power politics. Today's trend is to the very best policians that money can buy. Wind turbines weren't getting far until the big money stepped in.
J.D. Right on most counts, but the more stable and constant wind is often a lot higher than 500 feet. So the airborne generating system will indeed need to go much higher. But presently there are no-fly zones and aviation gets along with that quite well. In addition, putting them up at 2000 feet or maybe 2500 will keep that noise that people complain about away. I approached a large windmill a while back and could not hear any sound at about a hundred yards, so I do wonder what the folks are hearing. Plus they will be a bit more out of sight so that people won't be looking at them, and probably higher than most birds fly, which should reduce the bird impacts. So a lighter and much larger airborn system, like was described a year back, or so, is indeed probably a better choice. BUT now for a temporary emergency generating system the one in the writeup might be good. AND yes, use hydrogen instead of helium. When thye helium is gone there isn't any more. It's GONE.
Thanks for your comment beentheredonethat. There will be a lot more details about the wind turbine available after the test in Alaska, so stay tuned for more stories. I'm sure also you might find more information on the company's website.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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