Look, up in the sky! It's a bird… it's a plane… it's a… wind turbine? Altaeros Energies, a Massachusetts-based company formed by MIT and Harvard grads, has aimed high — literally — in its quest to deliver power to remote, off-the-grid locations, creating a blimp that harnesses the power of the wind at 1,000 feet up.
The prototype, seen in this video, is a large helium-filled shell that looks almost like a jet engine (or, as we suspect more than a few people thought when it was tested in Maine earlier this year, a UFO). Attached to a trailer on the ground, it automatically deploys itself 1,000 feet in the air (350 feet for its inaugural test flight) where a fan at its center is turned by the wind. At this altitude, the wind is not only stronger than at ground level, but also much steadier, resulting in twice the energy production of a traditional, pole-mounted turbine.
The electricity generated by the turbine is sent down to the trailer via the tether cables, where it can be used to power remote villages, military outposts, or anywhere that would normally have to depend on polluting diesel generators. When it's not in use, it can be automatically reeled in.
Altaeros Energies says that while the power its blimp provides costs more than getting it from the grid, it's actually more affordable than from generators that require a constant supply of gasoline, not to mention greener. The company plans to develop a larger, sturdier version of the 35-foot dirigible for use offshore by utility companies.
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