Wind turbines have become airborne! An enormous helium-filled wind turbine will soon float over the city of Fairbanks, Alaska to produce enough electricity for more than a dozen families living off the grid. Designed and built by MIT startup Altaeros Energies, the turbine known as BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine will hover at an altitude of 1,000 feet for 18 months, catching air currents that are five to eight times more powerful than winds on the ground.
Large wind farms floating over major cities may seem like something from a sci-fi movie, but the concept of airborne wind turbines is close to becoming reality. Altaeros has already built the world's highest turbine that can generate twice the energy output of its ground-based counterpart. Besides generating power, these floating power plants can provide data coverage, cell service and local weather data and can be deployed in harsh weather conditions.
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The helium-filled turbine will be installed over the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, and will feed energy into the grid through cables that will connect it to the ground. The team is planning to further develop the project and initially target remote areas, disaster-stricken regions and military bases.
Several other companies have tried to develop airborne wind systems, including Makani Power, whose design for a winged turbine was acquired by Google last year. However, the project is still under development. Despite the high expenses, the Buoyant Airborne Turbine will tackle the issue of high energy costs in regions such as Alaska. The Alaska Energy Authority has awarded Altaeros a $1.3 million grant to test the design over the course of 18 months.