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Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 24

Flying Wind Farms: Future Power Harvesters

Posted in Future Technology | Wind Farms | Wind Power

Flying Wind Farm How would you like swarms of kite-like airborne turbines spinning at high altitudes sending power down via nano-tube cable tethers to generate power for your community? This could very well be a true picture of future power harvesters according to NASA. A federal fund of $100,000 is being reserved for exploring these high-altitude, nano-tube cable tethered, above-ground wind farms. The project will check all aspects as well as weigh the pros and the cons of a wind farm such as this one.

Envisioned Research by NASA

Mark Moore, aerospace engineer at NASA, outlined this research as a study to look at the practicalities of the idea of air-borne turbines. To know the challenges that will be faced when turbines are working at 30,000 feet above ground level — and what the effect will be on airspace and unmanned aircraft — is what the project is aiming to uncover.

Features of Flying Wind Farms

A prototype planned by Italian start-up


has a pair of balloons at 2,600 feet. The open sails move antagonistically so while one moves downwind the other moves upwind. This movement spins a turbine to generate power. The option of offshore flying wind turbines is also being explored to solve the airspace competition issue.

Advantages Presented

At higher altitudes, wind has more power and velocity and is more consistently predictable. As power generated goes up because of higher wind resistance proportional to the cube of relative velocity, more power can be generated. That works out to be some 8 – 27 times the power produced at ground level. The tethers can haul in the kites/balloons housing the turbines during storms or for general maintenance work. Less pollution is an advantage, as well as the fact that it will not take up much precious ground space for installation.

Challenges Presented

This plan certainly presents plenty of challenges for air traffic and other unmanned aircraft by its need of a minimum 2-mile no-fly zone. The offshore option also has the extra effort of transporting the energy from sea to land-based power plants.

Need for Government Involvement

Since this plan of flying wind farms involves diverse major aspects like sharing airspace, geography, and technology, Moore says that there is a genuine need for government involvement to make this a viable plan. In his words, “We’re trying to create a level playing field of understanding, where all of the concepts and approaches can be compared.”

  • Bodie

    We’ll suck all the energy out of our ecosystems.

  • Derek

    You’re not serious are you, Bodie?

  • Preben

    Someone has actually made this. Eyeballed it on Discovery Channel.

  • Preben

    It wasn’t kites though… it was a gas filled balloon thing with generators on the sides.

  • LaZell

    Sounds interesting…How high up would they fly?

  • Jillian

    We do what we have to do…. after having used up (wastefully) all our other natural resources, we hafta do what we hafta do to maintain our ways of living

  • Derek

    There’s a really good article in the March edition of ‘Popular Mechanics.’ It does a good job of explaining everything about this topic… check it out πŸ™‚

  • Dave

    With the Troposphere extending to about 20km (12 miles), I’m surprised that no-one’s thought of this before. The rotation of the Earth should provide enough forward velocity to turn the turbines. Naturally, mounting turbines on towers to this sort of altitude, is a non-starter. Too unstable…. This type of technology could make Nuclear Power Stations obsolete, providing an alternative Base-Load Source.

  • Cathy

    You cant suck energy already spent, like solar won’t use up the sun.

  • Rupesh

    Many desparate technological measures will be tried. The bottom line will always be… can they generate enough power to manufacture and maintain themselves?

  • Barbara

    Frightening if one should go astray!!

  • Caslav

    This isn’t “sucking”, this is riding the wave. Bending on the wind.

  • Preben

    Rupesh. The bottom line can allso be.. will the technoligy that can, be allowed to be released.

  • Joshua

    One question that comes to mind: would the case of extreme weather at lower altitudes effect the nanotube cables holding the wind farm in place? If so, is the technology still worth it if you have to raise/lower or build new ones?

  • Acsi

    @ Joshua, if u mentioned lighting storm, then they have to attach a lightning cable, that is connected to water. When lighting strikes you got hydrogen and oxygen πŸ˜€

  • Roderick Read

    I’m sure a system like this where one bag pull opposes / winds in another would be well suited to a use inside tidal flows. each bag being a two line affair like a sailing dredge. one line splitting to a radial pattern on the parachute and another recovery line to the centre to collapse the bag.

    The advantage of using a bag in tidal systems is that you have a huge resource of kinetic energy bound within the bag.. as opposed to the current water passing a turbine blade model… also nylon is way cheaper

  • Sung-Woo

    it seems to be a novel idea…

  • Anonymous

    We should TRY everything. It is helpful if it can generate clean, affordable and scalable electricity. Solar doesn’t and current wind turbines do not.

  • JohnForrest

    I like the way these people are “thinking outside the box”. All novel inventions were laughed and put down at the outset, though admittedly we discover unanticipated consequences later on. One thing the article leaves out is how do we transfer that energy from up there to down here. Microwave beams? (The idea behind solar satellites.) Or do they charge batteries. One aspect of this is the air is very thin up there. But I certainly encourage engineers and inventors to keep trying things like this out.

  • Joefaust333

    We gather a vast set of options for kite energy systems at EnergyKiteSystems for this industry. AWEIA or Airborne Wind Energy Industry Association is servicing new starts. KiteLabGroup is speeding research and development.
    A kite consists of part and aspect sets where each set type could have many members:
    wing set
    bridle set
    tether set (connectors, swivels, surface, interior, compound parts, conductions, … )
    resistive set (which could be another wing set (soil anchor, person, plants, hydrofoils, vehicles, etc.)
    control set (pilot, autopilot, passive, active, mechanical logic, programs, sensors, transducers, … )
    purpose set (tasks, applications, motivations, meanings, )
    media set (air, water, soup, soil, plasma, photon stream, molten metal, magma, glass, sand, chemicals, food, trash collection, etc.; and characteristics of the media) A kite system may operate at once in a combination of media (e.g., upper wing in air with resistive set being a hydrofoil; here the tether could be partly in air and partly in water.)
    history set (production, inspection, testing, sales, use cycles, wear, aging, repair, decommissioning, reflection, analysis, comparison, significance, users, affected parties, environmental impact, …)

  • d.walton

    With fine processing enhanced Elimination is reputable with a utilized array for evaluation while precise alleviation from cold light to the percussive synthetic light replacement could be possible.

  • Alannah

    Interesting idea. Just taking a quick look at it, there may be easier/safer ways to generate energy. A few challenges, certainly, but then there always are. At least there are people out there thinking about the alternatives… The recent situation in Japan does bring home the major downsides of nuclear – especially to those who think such disasters are unlikely.

  • Bodie

    I am serious — solar power doesn’t take energy out of the system, obviously; wind and wave energy does. A significant wind turbine system to replace fuel-burning systems would take a lot of energy out of the natural flow of air…

  • Galvi


  • Walter Rose

    A number of companies have already made good progress toward airborne wind energy. In rural Alaska, the cost savings for not having to build a concrete foundation and put up a big tower is significant when concrete is a rare and expensive commodity. The biggest issue up here would probably be icing. I’d like to see a proof of concept project up here soon.

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