World’s first commercial airborne wind turbine
A new, floating wind turbine design could bring clean, renewable power to off-grid areas. Alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have launched a start-up called Altaeros which will develop the world’s first commercial airborne wind turbine. Their Buoyant Air Turbine, or B.A.T., uses a helium-filled shell – made of the same fabric used in blimps and sails – to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground to capture the stronger, steadier winds available at that altitude. This report and photo from Ecoseed.org.
Ecoseed.org report: 25 May 2014
A new, floating wind turbine design could bring clean, renewable power to off-grid areas.
Alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ben Glass and Adam Rein, have launched a start-up called Altaeros which will develop the world’s first commercial airborne wind turbine.
Their Buoyant Air Turbine, or B.A.T., uses a helium-filled shell – made of the same fabric used in blimps and sails – to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground to capture the stronger, steadier winds available at that altitude.
The B.A.T. can produce double the energy of similarly sized tower-mounted turbines. This is because, at the altitude that the B.A.T. hovers, the winds blow five to eight times stronger than winds at tower level (roughly 100 to 300 feet).
According to Mr. Rein, the B.A.T. is not designed to replace conventional tower-mounted turbines but, it will be able to bring wind power to areas where tower-mounted turbines are not practical or economically feasible.
“It’s really about expanding wind energy to all those places in the fringes where it doesn’t really work today, and expanding the amount of wind power that’s able to be deployed globally,” said Mr. Rein.
Conventional turbine construction requires tons of concrete and the use of cranes to erect the towers and mount the turbines. This can make deployment difficult in some areas. The B.A.T., on the other hand, can be deflated and packed into two midsized shipping containers for transport. Upon reaching the area, it can just be re-inflated at which point it will self-lift into the air.
When deployed, three tethers connect the B.A.T. to a rotating ground station, which automatically adjusts its altitude to obtain the strongest possible winds. Power generated travels down one of the tethers to the ground station before being passed along to microgrids.
The B.A.T. operates almost completely autonomously. It is equipped with anemometers which can detect optimal wind speeds and adjust the system and the altitude and direction at which the turbine floats accordingly. This also allows the B.A.T. to self-dock in case of an emergency such as weather getting to rough or if a tether breaks loose.
Target sites for B.A.T. deployment would include areas which currently depend on large diesel generators for powers. This would include military bases, industrial sites, island and rural communities. However, the B.A.T. could also help provide on the spot power for places such as amusement parks, festivals, and sporting event venues. In times of emergency, the B.A.T. could also be easily deployed to places that were cut off from the regular grid.
Next year, the B.A.T. is set to be deployed at a site south of Fairbanks, Alaska, as part of an 18-month trial funded by the Alaska Energy Authority. Currently, people in rural Alaska rely on gas or diesel generators for power and pay around $1 per kilowatt-hour for electricity. The B.A.T., which has a capacity of 30 kilowatts, aims to drop that cost to roughly 18 cents per kilowatt hour.