Graphic via Altaeros.
In five years of reporting about windpower in Sweden, I was always amazed at the sometime subtle, sometimes blatant negativity about wind turbines. Maybe if there was a turbine directly in my back yard I would have felt different, but I always found the many windmills in the open Swedish and Danish landscape graceful, mesmerizing, and even soothing - I liked to imagine the tall towers spinning electricity to the grid. Of course, not all folks feel that way about wind turbines or wind power, which is part of the impetus behind Altaeros Energies' design of a windpower structure that is a small turbine inside a helium-filled balloon boosted up to 2,000 feet into the air.Altaeros' Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) is then tethered to the ground with conductive wires which transmit generated electricity to land-based stations.
Altaeros says that AWT solves more than one of windpower's plaguing problems. To start with, wind speeds can vastly change the efficiency and affordability of any given wind farm. But sufficient wind speeds are generally not a problem a few hundred feet in the air where AWTs will sit. Expensive construction and transportation of huge turbine towers are also not an issue with AWT, Altaeros says, and systems be easily constructed in a day or two.
And then, of course, there's the NIMBY issue, which plagued the Martha's Vineyard Cape Wind project, and many others.
Price is the last factor, and Altaeros expects its technology to be cheaper than some wind turbines.
Our turbine will be 60-65% cheaper than other diesel generators and wind turbines. We are targeting military sites, industrial natural resource extraction sites, islands, and other off-grid communities in developing countries. We have targeted these because they have very high electricity costs, a reliance on polluting and expensive diesel generators, and open airspace for an airborne turbine. In the case of the military, over 1,000 soldiers have lost their lives in fuel convoys in the past decade, so this is a national security imperative to get a renewable technology that is mobile and reliable. - Adam Rein, Altaeros
Altaeros will use conventional turbines of the 100 kW size - in a pilot project a Southwest Windpower Skystream turbine will be employed, according to this Miljöaktuellt article. In the event of storms, AWT says the turbine and sheath can be lowered to the ground to a docking station.
Altaeros expects to have a 2kW prototype ready this year and hopes to have commercial availability by 2013.
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