An 18-metre-wide floating wind turbine is coming to Fairbanks, Alaska. From a height of nearly 300 metres, Altaeros Energies’ Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) will harness winds that are six times more powerful than the winds at ground level, supplying electricity to a dozen local homes. An 18-month experiment targeted for launch in 2015, BAT will fly 80 metres higher than the tallest stationary wind turbine and could eventually get up to 600 metres high.
At 30 kilowatts, BAT has a larger capacity than the 20-kilowatt Makani Power airborne turbine that received a 2011 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award. Whereas Makani’s turbines are supported by an autonomous aircrafts, BAT stays aloft via a helium-filled shell. At its centre, three turbine blades spin a shaft that turns a generator to produce electricity. Tethers hold the turbine in place and deliver the electricity to a portable ground station that interfaces with a grid.
After the Fairbanks experiment, the company plans to use BATs to supply power to small off-grid villages in Alaska, where solar power isn’t an option and permafrost makes conventional wind turbines expensive to install.
See how the BAT operates…
– By Sarah Fecht