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The Next Generation Of Wind Power Floats

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 1:00am
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor, ECN

 

I am one of those people who thinks wind turbines are pretty cool-looking. When there was talk of putting them on the Jersey Shore off the beach at Atlantic City, I thought that was a great use of otherwise useless space. Alas, the idea was never pursued because their location was right offshore and they were considered an eyesore. It makes sense given that Atlantic City is dependent upon tourist revenue, and those tourists—for whatever reason—seem to come for the beach. Upstate New York is home to a few of these farms, as well. Honestly, the first time I saw one I pulled to the side of the road to check it out. I find the sheer size and purpose incredible. Needless to say my co-pilot in the passenger seat was not as excited as I was at this unexpected stop and stared at me until I put the Bug back in drive.

As much as I’m fascinated by the mechanics of the wind turbines, I recognize that some people find them hideous or loud, and, in fact, do not want to live near a giant fan. But, the point is, that wind needs to be considered as an alternative source of energy. If there are complaints about the design or noise factor of the traditional wind turbines, the simple solution would be to redesign the turbines.

Startup Altaeros Energies has created a floating wind turbine capable of generating twice as much power as a traditional setup without the giant pole. The Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) is designed to float at a height of 1,000 feet, which makes it capable of catching wind that is five to eight times more powerful than the winds available to a turbine only a few hundred feet up.

The shell is made from industrial fabrics filled with helium and contains a lightweight, three-blade, horizontal axis wind turbine. The whole thing is connected to the ground via high strength tethers that transmit power to the ground while adjusting the angle and height of the turbine for peak energy output.  All the energy sent through the tethers ends up at the ground station, which has an autonomous control system and power conditioning equipment. The entire station is built into a trailer platform, which can be used to transport the turbine. The BAT is designed to handle any severe weather that it may encounter while hanging out in the sky.

As an added bonus, aside from capturing energy, the BAT can also serve as a communication, camera, or sensor hub without affecting the power output.

There are a few other benefits to using the BAT over a traditional tower. First of all, it can be used in places with low wind because it is capable of flying up to 2000 feet. It can also be utilized in remote places where a wind turbine isn’t logistically feasible or wouldn’t make sense. One interesting application is disaster response teams because the BAT can be shipped, installed, and producing power in under 24 hours. It also reduces the environmental impact, which is a big issue for critics.

Honestly, it’s mobile, it’s affordable, it’s clean, and I’m a fan. How can I order one?

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