A California company, Makani Power, was awarded a $3 million grant to further their development of a flying wind turbine which has 90% less mass than traditional wind turbines, plus the ability to generate electricity from much lower wind speeds than most other turbines can harvest.
According to the NY Times, even if the wind is only 10 or 15 miles an hour, the company's device can circle at speeds of about 100 miles an hour, as the propellers are turned by the wind, which makes it possible for it to generate electricity at wind speeds too low for other turbines to use.
The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) can access stronger and more consistent wind at altitudes near 1,000 feet, which means that 85% of the US could have viable wind resources using the device (compared to just 15% using current turbine technology). The Makani turbine could also be deployed in deep offshore waters, which could lead to access to a renewable energy resource four times greater than the entire country's electrical generation capacity.
A 20 kW prototype of the Makani Power AWT with an 8 meter wingspan was demonstrated at the ARPA-E summit, showing off the device's core technology, which includes being able to launch and land autonomously (launch is powered by grid energy). The company plans to scale this up to commercial levels with a 600 kW, 28-meter wingspan model, which is said to be capable of producing energy at a cost competitive with coal, the industry's current benchmark for power at low cost. Makani's site claims their technology will be able to produce electricity at half the cost of current wind power farms.