(CNN/ALTAEROS ENERGY/PUMPBOX) – Huge, inflatable wind turbines may be able to bring energy – and maybe Internet – to an estimated 1 billion people in rural area where power is unavailable.
“Anyone who needs power and is having trouble supplying it today often they rely on diesel generators for their power, which happen to be some of the most expensive and some of the worst for the environment,” said Altaeros Energies Co-Founder Adam Rein. “There’s enough energy and winds that are out of reach to power the world a hundred times over. And so there’s been a bit of a quest to say, ‘What way can we harness these winds that are out of reach?’”
We’re all familiar with wind turbines; they have three blades, and they spin, and they’re on towers.
“We’re taking that same concept of these three blades of power-generator,” said Rein. “Instead of putting it on a tower, we’ve built a helium-filled inflatable shell that wraps around the spinning blades and lifts it up higher in the air — where the winds are much stronger and more consistent than any tower can reach.”
Rein says the challenge of wind and solar and other renewable energy has been that they are intermittent. For example, the sun only shines during the day, and winds come and go.
“These high-altitude winds are some of the most consistent, steady renewable energy source you can find,” said Rein. “What we actually do is develop it so that, periodically, the wind turbine can change altitude in order to hunt for the stronger winds. For wind turbines of similar size, the Altaeros Bat gets two- to three times the power output of a tower-mounted one.”
Rein also add that most of their customers are people who are out at remote areas, where they really want renewable energy but deal with the challenge of conventional wind and solar products that don’t work for them.
Why is that? Conventional wind turbines need huge cranes and big concrete foundations.
“But by using this inflatable technology, we can pack our equipment down just into two small shipping containers, drop it off anywhere in the world, and set it up in about a day without any heavy equipment,” said Rein. “What we’re trying to do is build something that expands wind energy to new places where it’s never worked before.”
Rein says there have been island countries they’ve talked to that are worried that if the oil tanker doesn’t show up, then they lose power.
“And so folks are trying to take more control of their own energy and their own resources, so there’s less dependency on things outside of their control,” said Rein.