Jetstream Could Fill Global Energy Needs


Treehugger readers will be familiar with some of the ideas shown above, like the Magenn and the flying rotors. They are both attempts at putting wind powered generators up in the jetstream, six miles up, where the wind blows all the time at up to 310 MPH. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

By lofting generators into the upper atmosphere, scientists theorize they could capture the power of the jet stream and transmit the electricity along cables back to Earth.

A wind machine, floated into such a monstrous force, would transmit electricity on aluminum or copper cables -- or through invisible microwave beams -- down to power grids, where it would be distributed to homes and businesses. Unlike ground-based wind generators, the high-altitude devices would be too high to be heard and barely visible against the blue sky.

"My calculations show that if we could just tap into 1 percent of the energy in high-altitude winds, it would be enough to power all civilization. The whole planet!" said atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.

There are still problems to be solved:

"Creating a much larger, commercially viable system envisioned by scientists would take millions of dollars of research. Scientists need to figure out the structural materials that could stand up to the jet stream's buffeting winds and find a way to adjust the generator's position as the jet stream meanders back and forth across the sky.

Perhaps more vexing is determining the appropriate size and composition of the cable that would act like the string on a child's kite to keep the machine from blowing away while it functions as an electrical transmission line." ::San Francisco Chronicle

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