What is Airborne Wind Energy?
Euan Mearns wrote a better intro and review than I ever could into the "weird and wonderful world of high altitude wind power. It looks into the reasons for wanting to go high, explains tethered flight and explores the main competing technologies"
In short AWE is this:
Without this, this and this (No foundation, no tower, no hub):
You just keep the blade:
and add a tether:
AWE the idea of taking a conventional Wind Energy Converter, removing the foundation, the tower and the hub – just keeping the blade and adding a tether to the ground.
Basically doing to wind energy what kitesurfing did to windsurfing:
- Reduce the mass by 80% (fits in a back pack, no Surfbus required anymore)
- Reaches stronger wind in higher altitude (Twice the wind? Eight times the power!)
- Harvests more power by flying cross wind (Wind flow Area covererd by the kite is much larger than the kite itself)
The same effects are applicable to AWE vs. conentional wind energy.
Cool idea - is it new? No, as a matter of fact Miles L. Loyd in his 1980 paper Crosswind Kite Power has already shown that "a kite may produce twenty times the power output of a turbine".
Then why don't we have any AWE systems yet? Well the bad news is that Loyd left a couple of questions open that could not be answered with 20th century technology:
"These include the methods of landing and launching the kites and tethers, modes of power transmission to the ground in dragpower production, modes of load motion in lift-power production, the control of the kites, and the effects of windspeed variations and gusting"
The good news is that there are working AWE systems out there:
Google has one (Makani):
The Germans have one (Enerkite):
Just to pick two that have nice youtube videos to link to :) There are many others - check the projects section of the someAWE-Map!
If you are new to all this and are trying to figure out what people on this site are talking about please have a look at one of the many great introductions into the topic of Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) - like: