Monday, December 17, 2007

Airborne Wind Turbines

Traditional wind turbines can be unreliable sources of energy because, well, the wind blows where it will. Not the case 1,000 feet up. “At a thousand feet, there is steady wind anywhere in the world,” says Mac Brown, chief operating officer of Ottawa-based Magenn Power.

To take advantage of this constant breeze, Brown has developed a lighter-than-air wind turbine capable of powering a rural village. “Picture a spinning Goodyear blimp,” Brown says. Filled with helium, outfitted with electrical generators and tethered to the ground by a conductive copper cable, the 100-foot-wide Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS) will produce 10 kilowatts of energy anywhere on earth. As the turbine spins around a horizontal axis, the generators convert the mechanical energy of the wind into electrical energy, then send it down for immediate use or battery storage.

Planning for the MARS has been under way for a few years, but this fall Magenn got the $5 million it needed to build prototypes from a California investor. In October, the MARS received its U.S. patent. Already, larger models — ones that might light a skyscraper — are in the works. Brown says he hopes his floating wind turbines will power off-the-grid villages in the developing world. He says the governments of India and Pakistan have expressed interest.

At least one argument against wind turbines — that they slice up birds and bats — isn’t valid, according to Brown. “This thing is bigger than a house,” he says. “A bird can see it and a bat can sense it.

Original article

I like this idea.

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