Harnessing the power of high altitude winds has been continually explored over the years. Recently, testing of a 35-foot wide prototype Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) has been completed by Altaeros Energies. The AWT was deployed at 350 feet high and produced twice as much power at high altitude than generated at conventional tower height turbines, this was done in an automated cycle. It was transported and deployed from a trailer, which can be very useful in remote areas. It is as clean and portable as it can get.
The AWT is made of strong inflatable material, filled with helium, to lift a Southwest Skystream turbine to high altitude winds. Where winds are way more consistent and could reach speeds up to five times stronger than tower height turbines. The technology applied on the AWT has been tried and tested. Strong tethers hold it in place, while transmitted electricity for direct use or storage on the ground. Its helium filled lift has been adapted from aerostats which carry communication equipments to high altitudes and rated to survive hurricane-level winds.
The company behind this technology is aiming to harness energy from winds above 1,000 feet high, which reaches speeds fives times stronger than tower turbines. Improve its installation efforts from several weeks to just a few days. Altaeros plans to improve the technology further to reduce costs in the offshore wind market.
Due to the emerging sector exploring “airborne or high altitude” wind energy. Last December 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released draft guidelines allowing the new class of airborne wind systems to be cited under existing regulation.
High altitude wind technology is definitely a possible reality to generate clean energy and tap into unlimited natural resource. Now the question is, Will this be the next big thing in power generation? and when will this be available to the community?