Wind turbines are found on land and sea, but now there’s a new type on the horizon that can tap energy thousands of feet in the air.
As the video below explains, the helium-filled Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) is capable of producing twice the amount of energy of an ordinary turbine because it feeds off the stronger, faster and more consistent winds of higher altitudes. Cables tethered to the machine then send the generated wind energy back to a base station.
Created by MIT startup Altaeros Energies, the tube-shaped BAT can be inflated, set up within a day and transported anywhere by a truck, which significantly reduces the installation costs of a typical tower-mounted wind turbines. This is in sharp contrast to other land-based turbines, which require giant support platforms and lots of material, and offshore ones that need a platform strong enough to withstand punishing ocean waves, which is tremendously expensive to anchor to the seafloor.
Another potential of the BAT is that it can cheaply and efficiently power remote and off-grid communities (as well as areas struck by disaster). As Popular Science reports, one such off-grid locale has already been piqued by this new technology.
Thanks to a $740,000 grant from the Alaska Energy Authority, Altaeros will be testing out the first commercial BAT near the city of Fairbanks starting next year. The 30-kilowatt system is poised to provide power and even WiFi to a dozen families living off the power grid. If the 18-month trial is a success, it could reduce the area’s diesel consumption by 11,000 gallons annually.