Wind turbines that we usually see consist of tall steel towers and rotor blades that harness power from the wind and convert it into electricity. Winds at a higher altitude are stronger and can be harnessed by using kites, kitoons, gliders and blimps. These devices can move around freely up in the sky and use the tether and cable technology. The energy generated by them is sent down to the ground through cables.
The Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) developed by Altaeros Energies is one of them. Altaeros Energies is a Massachusetts company founded in 2010 with a mission to deploy airborne wind turbines to harness stronger winds and bring low-cost energy to remote places. Adam Rein, co-founder of Altaeros says, “The BAT is aimed at remote regions where power is more expensive, and where other forms of alternative energy are hard to achieve”.
The Altaeros BAT is an inflatable helium-filled aerostat 60 feet in diameter and has a light-weight 3-blade rotor turbine inside it. The BAT rises up 1000 ft. above the ground and sends power to the ground through high strength conductive tethers.
Wind speeds are 2 to 3 times more at higher altitude and more consistent, making the floating wind turbines more advantageous. If the wind becomes too strong say above 45 MPH, the BAT is automatically taken down by a winch to prevent damage. The Helium in the BAT has to be topped up after about every 3 months.
Recently, Altaeros has announced a demo project costing $1.3 million where power will be supplied to about a dozen homes in Alaska. The company is also in talks to set up projects at remote sites in Canada and Australia. A group controlled by the famous Indian industrialist Ratan Tata is investing in Altaeros. According to the company, BAT also offers a unique platform to expand internet and phone services, weather monitoring etc.
Other companies like Makani Power (acquired by Google X), Ampyx Power (the Netherlands) and NTS (Germany) are also working on building floating airborne wind turbines.
Here is the company’s video introducing the Altaeros BAT: