Engineers develop kite-like turbine to get electricity from wind
In a bid to better harness wind energy at high altitudes, a team of engineers is using a cross between an airplane, helicopter and robot to send a turbine 1,300 feet into the air, keeping it connected to the ground with a cable.
The 28-foot turbine would weigh only 130 pounds and transmit its generated electricity via the tether, according to an article on Popular Mechanics.
“Wing-mounted turbines generate electricity, transmitting it to the ground through the tether,” it said.
While wind can be intermittent and unreliable at lower altitudes, it can be strong and consistent above 1,300 feet.
Corwin Hardham, a co-founder of Makani Power, teamed with engineers Kenny Jensen and Damon Vander Lind to build the gadget, getting rid of the tower.
Hardham pointed out the craft’s vertical tail wing allows it to transition through various flight modes.
Should the experiment succeed, Hardham said fleets of these autonomous devices may be used to generate power, attached to land or buoys at sea.
Makani plans to develop a one-megawatt unit by 2013 that can fly above 1,800 feet, and eventually market it two years later.
The initiative has funding from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and from venture capitalists such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
20 kw from 35-kph wind
A separate article on GizMag said the prototype turbine can generate up to 20 kilowatts of power in a 20mph (35km/h) wind.
GizMag added the designers used carbon fiber to construct the eight-meter-wide Wing 7 prototype, keeping the weight down to 58.4 kg (128.7 lbs).
With uniquely designed tail and rotors, it can take off like a helicopter and then fly horizontally in crosswind circles.
It quoted Makani as saying the circular path taken by the flying wing is designed to mimic the tip of a wind turbine blade and sweeps a much larger section of the sky than a conventional wind tower.
This flight motion, less material and lower distribution costs can add up to a more efficient renewable energy solution, according to Makani.