Looking Beyond The Horizon

Innovative Technologies & Services

High Altitude Wind Power

Posted by evolvingwheel on June 20, 2007

Bryan Roberts, a professor of engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney, has teamed up with Sky WindPower, a San Diego based startup, to generate wind power from high altitude winds. For land based wind mills, the efficiency is often quite low – due to the unpredictability and lack of consistency of wind. However, at around 15000 feet above, the jet stream is consistent and strong. The efficiency of a high altitude based, floating windmill can reach upto 90% at that elevation.

Initially, Roberts was having problem in acquiring the initial funding to develop an operational pilot for his project. The ROI was not considered significant. However, lately Sky WindPower has come forward to commercialize Roberts’ dream. Read the article [here].

The prospect of high altitude wind power looks very promising. However, there could be some cost and implementation related issues with the basic hardware and maintenance. The cost of power (Kw) generated from these devices should be low enough to sustain the commercial deployment and long-term operation costs. The hardware consists of cable that holds the flying mill to the ground. If there are series of such mills flying across a large area, what kind of wear and tear is associated over a longer span of time? Considering that jet stream is pretty strong, the effort to stabilize the position and the orientation of the device will be a significant. Now Roberts says that his rotor based design is capable of maintaining the lift and stability with much ease than a helicopter.

Locating jet stream consistency will be another area of interest. There are various degrees of air traffic at 15000 feet elevation as well. We will wait to see how Roberts dream flies – and may be one day his invention provides a cheaper mean to sustained energy.


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