Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Alternative Energy Series, Part 1

At the core of any move towards environmental responsibility, human behaviour, specifically a change in human behaviour, is the central element. New, cleaner, greener technology will be very important, but it is always secondary to human choices and actions.

That said, new green technology is pretty cool stuff, and provides a lot of the "wow" factor that turning off lights lacks. It always gets me pretty motivated when I read about some new technology. So with that in mind, I will be sharing some new green tech ideas as I come across them.

Today's new green tech: airborne wind turbines

What are the two big complaints about wind turbines? As far as I hear, 1) the wind is variable , thus requiring other power to be on standby and 2) they take up a lot of space for what they produce.

These flying wind turbines solve both of those problems.

Basically, these work like kites with turbines attached to them. They maintain altitude about 5 miles up in the jetstream, where wind is constant and massively stronger than at ground level. An aluminium tether keeps them from blowing away and relays the electricity back to the ground, while the turbines provide lift. In the rare event that the wind putters out temporarily, the turbines can be run in reverse to keep the whole thing airborne until it gets windy again. It is estimated they could produce energy for about 2 cents per KWh. The current cost of coal power in the US? 4 cents per KWh. A working set of prototypes could be operational within the next few years. This is an artist's rendition of what they would look like:

Cool stuff.

Original story from The Economist

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