A U.S. company might have found a way to optimize wind energy harvests. Officials with Sky WindPower Corporation believe that by elevating their wind generators to high altitudes, they can harvest the energy of the much stronger high-altitude winds.
This story from CNN.com says the picture on the right is an artist’s rendering of what such a generator would look like:
And the madcap gadget that might just provide a solution? A helicopter that doubles as a wind turbine. Or, to give it its technical name, a FEG (Flying Electric Generator).
The brainchild of Australian engineering specialist Professor Bryan Roberts, the FEG is being developed by San Diego-based company SkyWindPower.
The guiding principle of the FEG is that wind speed and constancy are far greater at high altitude than they are on the ground, especially in the two major jet streams – the Sub-Tropical Jet and the Polar Front Jet – that exist in each hemisphere (at around 30 degrees and 60 degrees latitude respectively).
A turbine at great height, so the theory goes, can generate far more power than a similar turbine at or near ground level. It has been estimated that capturing just one percent of the available energy of these high altitude winds would meet the electricity needs of the entire planet.
Company officials believe the high-flying generators could produce 20 megawatts of electricity… compared to just five megawatts for the average for more land-based wind turbines now.