World’s First Airborne Wind Turbine to Bring Renewable Energy and WiFi to Alaska

by , 03/25/14

Altaeros Energies floating turbine, Altaeros Energies wind turbine, floating wind turbine, Buoyant Airborne Turbine, BAT turbine, hellium-filled turbine, wind power, wind energy, green technology, MIT wind technology, MIT green technology, renewable energy, wind turbine design, futuristic wind turbine

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.

Related:Altaeros Energies’ Floating Wind Turbines Tap Into Strong High Altitude Winds

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.

+ Altaeros Energies

Via Dvice, Gigaom, The New York Times

Images via Altaeros Facebook Page


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  1. Edison Pratten March 10, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Ah intriguing! learn about new stuff each day.

  2. Antwan Bush March 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Are you able to link me to more details. Would like to post my very own piece.

  3. Martin Langley March 7, 2015 at 7:13 am

    I love this and want to have its babies! How much does it cost and where do I sign?

  4. Chris Barry February 12, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Neat. Not really “high” altitude (considered jetstream). This is low altitude but of course higher than towers (typically under 300 ft)and thus does get some benefit of more consistant winds. However- Low flying aircraft be carefull! Tether wires and the electrical conduit.. both are obstacles and add weight- 1000ft of cable could be upwards of 500 pounds! A futher question- Any navigation lights?! Every hundred or so feet of cable should have at least some flashing warning strobe. And what about maintenance downtime… Power interruptions! Any charged batteries to take up demand or is is back to the grid…if there is one.

  5. Adak676 December 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    When ever it has something to do with electricity, I think of what Nicholas Tesla, and what he would say. He was and probably is way smarter in this field than anyone on the planet. I think he would say use hydrogen, or make the envelope out of a flexible solar, or using a solar paint to power small motors to keep the platform afloat, and then wirelessly transmit the energy back to the ground. Before you say you can\’t do it, Nicholas Tesla was doing it over 100 years ago, you would think we could figure it out by now.

  6. kothandaraman December 12, 2014 at 10:51 am

    can you send that AWT IGS model.because we are doing Academic project in that AWT

  7. Lê Tuấn December 3, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I’m still very skeptical about this because the device requires cables for power transferring. Hence, there would be a chance for aircrafts to hit them eventually. If the program is approved and expanded, there would be heck of air traffic accidents. It is seriously unsafe.

  8. Fakia November 26, 2014 at 11:30 am

    This is going to take some SERIOUSLY strong materials to handle the wind loading if it goes up really high where the fast winds are. Heck, we lost one of our aerostats in Iraq due to wind at really low levels and that was nothing compared to what Alaska is going to have in the winter. Should be some interesting wildlife interactions too, but maybe not as many as ground based wind turbines.

    Beyond that it\’s a pretty interesting idea. Air traffic control guys are gonna love this one.

  9. Gerald Katz November 25, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    After viewing some comments I will try to reply. Helium is limited and should not be wasted, Hydrogen, which is essentially unlimited and easily produced from water ia flammable but not as dangerous as gasoline or propane. The Hindenbrg fire was found to have been caused by the coating of aluminum and iron oxide powder which was explosive and a static electric conductor. If suitable safety measures are employed hydrogen can be less dangerous than other fuels and far cheaper than helium. The amount of power generated is not large but should be steady so it could be a good supplement to solar and ground based wind. The main value would be the large area of coverage for communication with out the immense cost of hundreds of towers or a satellite. This concept hado been looked at in the past but that was before the use of so much wireless communication. A kite will onot stay up with plenty of wind and a tethered ballon is pushed down by wind, the fins on the balloon give the best of both called aerostat design.

  10. James Babb November 24, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Cost per kilowatt?

  11. Alex Whitton November 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    How do you stop planes flying into the wires?

  12. Conny Öström November 23, 2014 at 8:31 am

    I heard about a propeller that was able to work in winds 4-40 meter/sec.
    Propeller is designed how bumble-bee wings are made. Just take a steel-bar, cut it in a U-shape, twist the end 10 degrees, solder the twisted part on the center. Sorry no link. Yes one thing: the rotor speed is constant regardless of wind speed … seems like it will fit very niceley to this. If you change angle to 45 DEG its suitable for a driving propeller like on a boat.

  13. Jim McDermott November 22, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Interesting project and as we discuss in our intro to business class R&D has stages:

    Research and Development. Research and development (R&D) involves a set of activities intended to identify new ideas that have the potential to result in goods and services. Today, business firms use three general types of R&D activities.

    1. Basic research consists of activities aimed at uncovering new knowledge, without regard for its potential use.
    2. Applied research consists of activities geared to discovering new knowledge with some potential use.
    3. Development and implementation are research activities undertaken specifically to put new or existing knowledge to use in producing goods and services.

    Reference: Huges, R. & Kapoor, J. & Pride, W. M. (2013). Foundations of business. 4th Edition. Boston, MA. Houghton Mifflin Co.

    As the Fairbanks research is more defined and expenses are well understood then I would love to give my business students here at UAF a chance to develop the break even analysis.

    Just in case they check comments: Jim McDermott, Business Instructor University of Alaska Fairbanks, 907-978-2317

  14. roughdesigns November 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    It’s a fantastic idea, accessing much faster and steadier high altitude winds.
    Helium is problematic for mass deployment. There’s not that much around.
    I wonder if the kite ideas should be revisited in light of the drone boom. The same electronics that are making drones cheap enough for anyone to buy over the internet might enable kites to stay up for years at a time, fly themselves in for 5 yr ck ups, etc..
    Russell Higgins AIA

  15. Roughdesigns November 11, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    It\’s a fantastic idea, accessing much faster and steadier high altitude winds.
    Helium is problematic for mass deployment. There isn\’t that much around.
    I wonder if the kite ideas should be revisited in light of the drone boom. The same electronics that are making drones cheap enough for anyone to buy over the internet might enable kites to stay up for years at a time, fly themselves in for 5 yr ck ups, etc..
    Russell Higgins AIA

  16. spurg1 November 10, 2014 at 2:06 am

    Keep going, you’re on the right track, and thanks.

  17. Sunho Lee November 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    A dozen families is pretty small potatoes, so I have to imagine this is just an engineering project.. I have been following developments in this area for ten years or so, and judging by the very very slow pace of development, it seems like there is a LOT of problems with this kind of thing. But, clearly, the energy is there waiting to be tapped…nearly unlimited, cheap and clean energy! :)

  18. Randje Randje October 28, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Cumbersome. Problematical. Free energy exists, and thats what we should be implementing. Not more varied ways to gouge people for necessities.

  19. Gerald Katz October 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Wow, the idea of tethered floating wind turbines has been around for many decades. Some of the different proposed platforms were blimps, dirigibles, kite or planelike devices. This inflatable,lighter than air design looks like it might be very effective especially with the wireless communication option. Also just getting it working will create a market that could inspire other improved designs.

  20. sugatri September 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    why the airborne windmills can generate more power than traditional windmill

  21. kousalya August 4, 2014 at 10:09 am

    when this balloon falls incase of any reason what happens to whole apparatus when the balloon falls down???? can you please reply me soon!!!

  22. Ruth McVeigh April 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Can this be used to help the 1st Nations communities in the far north of Canada?

  23. fcfcfc March 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Hi: You should keep in mind that this is a small turbine and should not be compared to commercial wind turbines. The sweep area of that turbine is only 12 feet, and even with a custom gen on it, I cannot believe they can get more than 10KW out of it. Being up at 1000 feet though, the peak power should pretty much be constant. For remote houses that are off grid already and in that climate and environment, 100 to 200KWH a day should take them pretty far….


  24. oldcrow35 March 29, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Perhaps these are an answer to the killing of eagles, etc. by ground based wind mills??? There needs to be an answer for this problem!

  25. Guido Vandendorpe March 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    One of the problems,I see here,it’s that you have to generate high Voltage as to avoid to use a heavy transfer cable fron the generator to the ground and than the necessity to have transformators or rectifiers to generate usable voltage in the homes.In any case for remote places where you need electricity,it’s a goood idea.Up till how fast can the speed of air be? before the system collapse?Regards Guido

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