We already know the immense potential of solar energy and wind energy as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to energy created by combustion. But if you are worried that a vast amount of land space would be used up to establish those giant wind turbines, then you need not be worried. The launch of the world’s first airborne wind turbine promises a bright future for an alternative renewable energy source which is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world today. Now a handful of families in the city of Fairbanks, Alaska will receive electricity from this giant helium based wind turbine that would float over the city. This unique wind turbine known by the name of Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) has been designed by a startup formed at MIT called Altareos Energies. The following video shows how BAT promises to be the next generation of wind power.
One of the added advantages of having such turbines in the air would mean that the turbines would be able to capture air currents that are five to eight times more powerful compared to that on the ground. Not only these turbines will provide a cleaner source of energy but they will be ten times cheaper compared to the conventional wind turbines. This particular wind turbine will be in the sky for about 18 months at around 1,000 feet, generating electricity almost twice the amount generated on the ground and provide a cleaner source of energy to those dozens of families who are staying off the grid.
Along with the generation of electricity, the wind turbine would also be capable of providing cellular services, data coverage as well as get data about the local weather. These floating power plants are also well equipped and made in a way to survive even in the harshest weather conditions making them a really exciting prospect.
The potential of wind energy over other renewable sources has been given a boost as a result of this ground breaking technology.
Also Read: Could Hurricanes like Gonzalo be a Potential Source for Wind Energy
The following are Advantages of Airborne Wind Turbines:
- Renewable energy source
- 10 times cheaper than conventional wind turbines
- Capable of producing electricity 5 to 8 times more than conventional wind turbines
- No need of tower construction thus saving ground space
- Capable of providing other services such as Wi-Fi, cellular services, local weather data, and so on
- Beneficial for providing services to remote areas, military bases, and disease stricken regions
Just like every sort of technology has some or the other challenges to overcome and the airborne wind turbine comes with no exception. Even though they are supposed to handle extreme weather conditions, it would be a task to actually monitor the conditions of these huge turbines suspended in the air hundreds of metres above the ground especially during storms and hurricanes. Another challenge would be to actually transmit the harvested or generated wind power back to the Earth from such a distance. These floating marvels could create a hindrance for the aviation industry.
In the case of the BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine, the energy generated will be fed through cables thus connecting it to the grids on the ground.
Altareos Energies is not the only company pursuing this avenue. Several others are also developing wind energy based solutions some of which are – Makani Power, the company which was acquired by Google last year for its unique airborne wind power extraction systems, Amypyx Power, known for its autopilot glider based minimalistic yet efficient PowerPlane technology, KiteGen – the firm behind the kite-surfing inspired power kite design. Recently, even Nobel Prize winner Joseph Goldstein had suggested an alternate method which comprised of an airborne wind energy system which would use a ground based generator using fast motion transfer.
Even though the initial cost of this new airborne turbine is quite high, it promises to tackle the ever growing demand and the issues of high energy costs in places like Alaska. Altareos Energies has in fact been awarded a grant of $1.3 million by the Alaska Energy Authority to test this design in the course of 18 months.
Technologies such as these are more than just a need for a planet that is being sucked dry by its billion inhabitants. It just goes to show that if we have the right intent, then we have the technologies which exist even today to make our planet a cleaner place to live in.