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Rethinking Wind Power: Floating And Flying Wind Turbines
April 23, 2012
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Wind turbines are a source of renewable energy - but they have also been a source of controversy in some communities. Opponents of the turbines say they are costly, adversely affect human health, disrupt bird migration, and hurt property values. But some new technologies could help mitigate those concerns: a wind turbine that floats on water, allowing it to generate more power at lower cost, or a helium-filled balloon turbine that floats in the air.

Up In The Air: Wind Power That Flies

The airborne wind turbine is the work of Massachussetts-based Altaeros Energies. They recently released a video showing the turbine in action:

According to the company, the 35-foot scale prototype shown in the video climbed to 350 feet, where high altitude winds allowed it to generate twice the power possible at a conventional tower's height. The company hopes to create full-sized version of the airborne turbine that would harness the even stronger winds found at 1,000 feet, while remaining "cost competitive and easy to setup from a shipping container". Some experts have raised concerns in the past about the danger airborne turbines may pose to birds and bats, a concern Altaeros co-founder Adam Rein says the company will address soon.

Floating A New Approach To Wind Power

A floating wind turbine in Karmøy, Norway. Credit: StatoilHydro

Moving from mid-air to deep water, the U.S. and the U.K. say they will work together to develop "floating" wind turbines. The UK has a lot of wind - their offshore winds account for about one-third of all of Europe's wind potential - but new technology is needed to extract energy from deep-water areas where wind is more consistent and strong, but where the seabed is too deep to affix standard turbines.

In the U.K., the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is commissioning a C$40,000,000 "demonstrator" for offshore wind floating systems, which will operate for at least two years to show it can generate high levels of electricity. The ETI is also inviting outside participants to produce prototypes of an effective offshore wind turbine by 2016. In the U.S., the Department of Energy is backing four offshore projects, potentially including a floating wind turbine. The technology has already been demonstrated in Norway. Portugal is also working on a similar project.

Related stories on Strombo.com:

The Donald Hates Wind Turbines

Segway Inventor Patents Inflatable Wind Turbine

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