This cutting-edge, high-altitude wind tech could potentially power the planet

Contributed by
Oct 7, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

Scientists say there’s more than enough wind energy produced in high altitudes to power the entire planet — the only problem is having the tech to extract and use it. Well, this big inflatable air turbine could hold the key.

Popular Science reports that Altareos Energies is currently designing a fully autonomous, lighter-than-air buoyant airborne turbine (BAT) that should be able to fly at 2,000 feet, where winds blow stronger and steadier and produce a boatload of energy.

In a 2012 paper, Stanford University climate scientist Ken Caldeira noted there is “more than enough” energy in high-altitude winds to “power all of civilization.” All we need is the right technology that is reliable and affordable to make it all work. Altareos hopes the huge, inflatable air turbine you see above is the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

The idea is pretty simple — create a reusable, easy-to-move piece of tech that can be anchored and flown to produce energy in a variety of places. One of the initial applications would see the BAT used to power communities outside of a typical electrical grid, or construction sites where there is no viable power source other than diesel generators.

To use it, all you’d have to do is inflate the device and anchor it to a base station using the same ties as telephone poles, and you have wind power. They’re still working on getting the scope up, and determining exactly how durable the inflatable components will be with prolonged use, but in a few years they believe the BAT could produce upward of 200 kilowatts. 

As the company’s head director, Adam Rein, explains:

“We have a vision of putting out a product that you could deploy, leave there for a year or two, pack down, and move to a new site or a new customer.”

The company is seeking out grants to test new versions of the BAT, and it’ll be interesting to see how the equipment works out in the wild. We’re definitely curious to see how this project develops. Do you think wind power holds the key to the future?

(Via Popular Science)