Altaeros Energies, a company founded in 2010 at MIT, has developed and tested a new type of wind turbine called BAT, for ‘buoyant airborne turbine’, which is designed to capture the energy of high altitude winds.
High altitude winds are one of the largest untapped renewable resources in the world; they are more consistent than winds found near ground-level, and average around twice the velocity, with five to eight times the power density.
Altaeros has already tested a prototype 500 feet above a site in Maine, and is working on a commercial BAT that will house a 30-kilowatt turbine, which could power about a dozen homes. Later models could reach 200-kilowatts, big enough to compete with generators that typically power remote mines and construction sites.
Image: Altaeros Energies
Professor Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute for Science at Stanford University published research on the sector, arguing that “There is enough energy in high altitude winds to power civilization 100 times over”.
In addition, this technology reduces one of the key issues with ‘on the ground’ wind power — that the electric grid, designed for continuous transmission, doesn’t work well with varying wind speeds.