Design Con 2015

Wind beneath our wings for energy

-December 21, 2012

I recently became aware of a company called Windlift, a mobile airborne wind energy company in Raleigh, N.C.  from an IEEE Spectrum article. Windlift’s objective is to provide distributed, cost effective renewable energy systems using AWE (Airborne wind energy) that are competitive alternatives to existing fossil fuel energy systems.

AWE frees a blade of a turbine from a fixed structure and allows it to fly like a kite and to more efficiently capture the power of the wind.

The figure eight pattern shown in Figure 1 visually describes the swept area that our system will have access to during flight. The “lollipop” is a visual representation of a 20 kW rated conventional horizontal axis wind turbine with a 100 foot tower and 40 foot blade diameter. The aerodynamic principles of operation are actually very similar.

Windlift’s current system is designed to provide distributed renewable energy to off-grid locations.  The system is ideal for use in communities in the developing world, remote agricultural areas, research facilities, mining operations and for disaster relief.  It has been developed for off-grid applications such as: lighting, cooking, pumping water, compressing air, and charging batteries.        

Check out their system in this video.

There are a number of companies around the world with many different ideas to employ this technology in an efficient and cost-effective manner. See Table 1

Click on chart to enlarge

Ben Franklin would be proud! His encounter with electricity in 1752 by using a kite, an iron key and a Leyden jar to store the charge, was as monumentous then as this technology is in the 21st century.

We strive for alternative energies, especially if we can harness natural elements such as we have done with waterfalls and rivers and ground-based windmill-type devices. We now are striving to make these basic ideas more efficient.

Think of the aircraft and ships that could benefit from this. Cars! Why not?

Please give us your thoughts on this subject.

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