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UP – Is where we are heading?

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An important factor to consider when evaluating wind energy potential is the wind speed persistence. Fortunately, our country mostly surrounded by water, where the speed of the wind is higher.


Due to that, the possibility of churning wind power is possible with airborne wind turbine (AWT). As you get higher, the wind gets stronger. Harvesting just 1% of those high-altitude breezes could produce enough power for everyone. Hence, up is the way we should be heading!


The questions surrounding airborne wind are significant. How do you safely suspend airborne turbines hundreds or thousands of feet off the ground? How do you keep them aloft for long period in high winds without having to perform frequent, costly maintenance?


Luckily, the basic premise of airborne generation is to tether a device to the ground and let it fly around in the strong winds like a kite, either generating power and sending it down a tether to the ground or using the tether itself to produce electricity at its base. The specific devices on the end of the tether vary widely in design.


Terrestrial windmill design is largely settled; but up in the sky, it seems like anything goes. There are rigid, carbon-fiber wings outfitted with multiple small turbines; softer kite-like devices that fly in figure-eights and generate power by coiling and uncoiling a tether; devices that resemble a blimp rotating around a horizontal axis; and several other concepts. No consensus exists on an optimal design, though some may be better suited for utility-scale wind farms while others may fit smaller, niche-market applications.


One company that seems close to deployment is Makani Power, based in Alameda, California. Makani’s tethered rigid wing has been through seven development iterations and numerous test flights in six years, and the latest prototype can generate 30 kilowatts of power. Due to this, Google recently acquired the company, as they believed that it would be the next big thing in the world while help to address future world energy needs.


Perhaps, our country can study and analyze the technology and potential of the wind energy along the coastline (possibly?). If we are lucky, we might be able to see this technology deployed in our country sooner than we think.





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