Altaeros Energies is capturing media attention with the blimp-like appearance of its prototype inflatable airborne turbine, but it is claimed that the innovation could also cut energy costs by up to 65 percent.
A helium-filled inflatable shell allows the airborne wind turbine (AWT) to ascend to heights of more than 1,000 feet, where winds are more consistent and more than five times stronger than those at the level of traditional tower-mounted turbines, says Altaeros Energies.
The company, which came out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has just put a 10m-wide prototype to the test. This climbed to more than 100m above ground, produced power at altitude, and landed in an automated cycle. It lifted the Southwest Skystream turbine to produce more than double the power at high altitude of a ground-based equivalent. The turbine is transported and deployed from a towable docking trailer and held steady by strong tethers. The lifting technology is adapted from aerostats, industrial cousins of the blimps that lift heavy communications and radar equipment.
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