Blue Sky Thinking: The Floating Wind Turbine

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In the wake of the recent environmental report from the IPCC, so-called ‘green’ technologies are more important than ever before. Since conventional wind turbines are incredibly divisive, this neat alternative might be just what we’re looking for: a wind turbine that actually floats in the air!

The strange-looking contraption is the product of Altaeros Energies, a company founded by MIT students in 2010. It’s officially known as the buoyant aerial turbine, or BAT, by its creators Ben Glass and Adam Rein (no relation to the flying contraption from The Dark Knight Rises.) It’s due to be tested in Alaska over the next 18 months to see if it’s a viable source of energy generation.

Source: Altaeros Energies

Source: Altaeros Energies

The balloon-like structure of the BAT is filled with helium and then rises to an altitude of 1000 feet (about 305 metres.) It does this, according to Design News, to allow it to harness stronger, more consistent winds. Power generated by the BAT is transferred to the ground through its tether, which is apparently made of a conductive material. Once…grounded, the power can be transferred to the consumer.

Ben Glass, Altaeros’ CEO, said: “We are pleased to work with the Alaska Energy Authority and TDX Power to deploy our flexible, low cost power solution for remote communities. The project will generate enough energy to power over a dozen homes. The BAT can be transported and setup without the need for large cranes, towers, or underground foundations that have hampered past wind projects.”

The idea of a rapid-response energy solution is an enticing one, and it’s been expanded upon by Annalee Newitz. Writing for io9, she envisions a scenario where disaster-stricken areas can make use of this floating wind turbines in an emergency situation.

It’s fair to say that floating aid turbines are an exciting technology, and though it remains to be seen just how effective they really are, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for a more sustainable future.

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