Flying wind generator, or airborne wind turbine (AWT), is a design concept that aims to tap wind energy with help of a wind turbine operating without any support from a tower in the air. It operates from a tethered aircraft or a kite. The AWT has been designed to counter the limits of conventional wind turbines that are mounted on a tower and don’t receive constant wind for the production of electricity.
1. MARS – A wind turbine that is up in air
Launched on an experimental level in North Carolina, the Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS) has been designed as a source of renewable energy for industrial customers who wish to replace diesel generators or who use energy in remote locations. It is in the form of three dimensional structure cylinder and uses a light tethered wind turbine. MARS flies at the height of about 1000-foot and can transfers electricity down the tether for immediate use. The electricity can also be stored in batteries or sent to a power grid.
2. Joby Energy tests high-altitude wind turbine prototype
The high-altitude wind turbine prototype by Joby Energy aims to tap the wind energy at higher altitudes where, according to scientific estimates, about 800 terawatts of energy could be produced. This prototype looks like an airplane floating in the air and can produces 30KW of energy. The entire system moves in a circular motion for maximum exposure to cross winds and produces energy on board which is then transmitted to ground along the tether.
3. Kite farm offers parasailing while producing energy for the adventurous sort
Designed by a Colombian architecture studio, Paisajes Emergentes, the energy generating kite farm will be established on a public beach in Abu Dhabi. This unique power plant will have about 200 high flying kites that would be tethered across a 60-meter power grid. A wind belt generator will be mounted on each kite for converting the kinetic energy of winds into electrical energy. According to estimates, the kite farm will produce enough electricity to meet the demand of about 600 homes.
4. Makani Power to develop energy harvesting kites
A kite that can harvest 1MW of wind energy. California-based high altitude wind company Makani Power is developing this prototype. This kite would be flown by robots so that it can remain in the air for longer hours and harvest energy from wind streams at the height of about 600 meter from ground level.
5. NASA researchers envisions airborne wind turbines for renewable energy
A NASA aerospace engineer Mark Moore has envisioned this idea of planting wind farms in the free space above earth. It will be in the form of airborne wind turbines that would transmit back the electricity produced from winds via nanotube tether cables. According to Moore, his energy harvesting turbines can stay afloat in the air for air and also lowered to ground during storms.
The underlying concept behind a flying wind generator is that the speed of wind is greater and also constant at high altitudes like in the jet stream that flows just below the Troposphere as compared to low altitudes. Hence, more energy can be produced than the conventional wind mills. Also, when stationed at greater heights, the AWTs will produce less noise and work without altering much the land scape that can be used for other purposes.
However, the flying wind generators would not work in bad weather conditions like thunderstorms or lightning. This would cause operational problem. Also, a large area of the sky would have to declared no-fly zone for other passenger aircrafts if AWTs are allowed to float at greater heights.
The idea of flying wind generators is still in an experimental stage. As of now, no big AWT-based power plant has been established anywhere in the world. However, it could become a major source of power in near future as large amount of electricity can be produced at greater altitudes which would also be renewable and completely pollution free ‘green’ energy.