Think of highly portable wind turbines that can adjust their height to take advantage of the best winds, and you’ve got the next generation of airborne wind energy devices. A 100-kW model from Magenn Power, Inc. is about to go on the market, so let’s dig a little deeper into the idea of harvesting energy through a kite string.
Airborne Wind Energy
The basic principle is simple: instead of anchoring a wind turbine to the ground, you float it up and make its tether double as a grid connector. Their portability, ease of installation and minimal use of land space could make airborne turbines ideal for innumerable small scale uses, including disaster relief and other emergency services.
Many Places for Airborne Wind Energy
One potential use for airborne wind energy is at sites that are not suitable for on-ground alternative energy installations. For example, airborne turbines could be tethered at brownfields as part of the U.S. EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land program, or at construction sites where extra space is minimal. They could also become an important alternative energy source for outdoor festivals and other temporary events (which are already beginning to introduce solar power and pedal power, by the way).
Magenn’s Airborne Turbine
The Magenn Power wind turbine, called MARS, differs from a kite-style wind power system in that it’s held aloft by helium rather than relying on the force of wind. It’s basically a blimp that houses rotors which spin on a horizontal axis. It can range up to 1,000 feet, and the system includes a battery so energy can be used immediately on site, stored for later use, or transferred to the grid. The company foresees a diverse market that includes isolated communities and remote facilities such as cell towers or mines, as well as farms, factories and the aforementioned disaster relief.
Image: Airborne wind turbine courtesy of Magenn Power, Inc.