Claim: all the energy we need is just a mile above our heads- but getting it is another story

Altaeros_Wind_Turbine_Wide[1]From NCAR, some wind pie in the sky.

A mother lode of wind power

Mapping the potential to harvest high-altitude wind

May 28, 2014 | What if all the energy needed by society existed just a mile or two above our heads? That’s the question raised by researchers in an emerging field known as airborne wind energy, which envisions using devices that might look like parachutes or gliders to capture electricity from the strong, steady winds that blow well above the surface in certain regions.

While logistical challenges and environmental questions remain, scientists at NCAR, the University of Delaware, and the energy firm DNV GL have begun examining where the strongest winds are and how much electricity they might be able to generate.

Sources of airborne wind energy: Forecast-model depiction of winds at 850-mb level on 1/30/13

This forecast-model depiction of winds at the 850-millibar level (about a mile above the surface) above the United States on January 30, 2013, shows a strong southerly low-level jet stream (red shading) across the Mississippi Valley, with speeds exceeding 60 knots (69 mph). Reliably strong winds at this height could serve as a valuable source of energy. (Image courtesy Weather Underground and Pennsylvania State University.)

Their key finding: winds that blow from the surface to a height of 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) appear to offer the potential to generate more than 7.5 terawatts—more than triple the average global electricity demand of 2.4 terawatts (as of 2012, according to the study). Among the areas where such winds are strongest: the U.S. Great Plains, coastal regions along the Horn of Africa, and large stretches of the tropical oceans.

This type of research could prove critical if airborne wind energy takes off. The growing industry now includes more than 20 startups worldwide, exploring various designs for devices that could be tethered to ground stations and then raised or lowered to capture the most suitable winds at any point in time.

“From an engineering point of view, this is really complicated,” said NCAR scientist Luca Delle Monache, a co-author of a new study examining these issues. “But it could greatly increase the use of renewable energy and move the U.S. toward the goal of energy independence.”

To estimate the potential of airborne wind energy, Delle Monache, with Cristina Archer at the University of Delaware and Daran Rife at DNV GL, turned to an NCAR data set known as Climate Four Dimensional Data Assimilation. It blends computer modeling and measurements to create a retrospective analysis of the hourly, three-dimensional global atmosphere for the years 1985–2005.

The research team looked for various types of wind speed maxima, including recurring features known as low-level jets. Such jets can be ideal for energy because their speed and density is as high or higher than jets at higher elevations that would be beyond the reach of tethered wind devices. They also blow more steadily than winds captured by conventional wind turbines near the surface, potentially offering a more reliable source of energy.

Low-level jets blowing at 30-50 miles per hour or more can be found at several locations worldwide, often close to mountainous terrain or to persistent atmospheric features that help focus and channel wind. One of the strongest low-level jets on Earth flows from the Gulf of Mexico north across the Great Plains.

A study by the scientists, published last month in Renewable Energy, focused on winds in January and July. The team is now looking for additional funding to provide a more complete picture of the potential of higher-level winds. Their main goals are to estimate the strength of the winds year round and to build an interface that would enable users to explore the strength of the winds over specific regions.

“It’s important to understand the magnitude of this resource and what might be possible,” Delle Monache said.

 

About these ads

177 thoughts on “Claim: all the energy we need is just a mile above our heads- but getting it is another story

  1. So, if they start sucking all this energy out of the jet streams, wouldn’t that affect the wind pattern and subsequently the weather, if not directly beneath the turbines, but ‘downstream’, possibly in other countries? I can see ‘weather wars’ with claims that our high level wind devices are ‘robbing’ 3rd world countries of wind energy and suing climate change that the 3rd world country would want to be compensated for.

  2. The utility of surface based wind turbines suffers severely from the intermittent nature of wind power. Now magnify that to a tethered balloon array of hundreds of these things in Oklahoma-Arkansas when the spring-summer storms roll through. The scale of tethered floating wind turbines to generate viable levels of Megawatts is absurd.
    Further more, helium supplies are already facing future shortages.

    This approach is absolutely moronic for so many reasons. But hey, rent seekers are always up for a government handout.

  3. In other news, hurricanes can be harnessed as a domestic energy source, according Murray J. Fishbine of NCAR. “Extracting the energy will be a little tricky.” said Fishbine, “but hurricanes are a HUGE source of clean energy!”

    /sarc

  4. This would be vehemently opposed by most of the aviation community; the cable connecting these devices to the ground would be lethal to aircraft.

  5. Why not just land some fusion generators on the Sun and beam the energy down to Earth? You’re thinking we cannot land on the Sun, but maybe we could go at night.

  6. Get energy from ocean waves – and you will also limit erosion. NCAR must be desperate to get a clean energy to run their climate models on their Yellowstone supercomputer.

  7. Plus, I imagine that hoisting the necessary power and control cables would significantly increase the lifting capacity, in weight, size and complexity.

    And what happens when all that crashes to the ground somewhere?

  8. Let us know when they put one up over the Hamptons. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me.

  9. This from the same geniuses who brought us the Precautionary Principle.
    Wylie E Coyote, super genius.
    Maybe the proper response is to invite them to go fly a kite?

  10. These renewable-energy-at-any-cost” guys are driven by a Chicken Little “the sky is falling” view of the environment. Except they see nothing wrong with hanging a ton of electrical generation equipment in tethered balloons at high altitude to be subjected to low level turbulence and mechanical failure. With this plan the sky may not fall, but large heavy object they put in it certainly will fall.

    Their view of risk can only be described as perverse.

    Let us also consider limited resources. There isn’t enough helium in the world to float a fraction of the balloons to make a dent in electricity needs. Helium is too valuable to cryogenics for this idiocy anyway. So lets seem them do their testing with plentiful hydrogen. Then we enroll them in the Darwin Awards competition.

  11. milodonharlani says: August 14, 2014 at 11:24 am
    Princeton Plasma Physics Lab:

    Had a professor who’s son in law was working on the Princeton tokamak project, but that was 1978. And from your posting – “The facility is designed to produce 500 million watts of fusion power for at least 400 seconds by the late 2020s to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion as a source of energy.”

    Just 20 more years.

    The team is now looking for additional funding to provide a more complete picture of the potential of higher-level winds.

    The growing industry now includes more than 20 startups worldwide, exploring various designs for devices that could be tethered to ground stations and then raised or lowered to capture the most suitable winds at any point in time.

    Community funding for private profit.

  12. Bill Marsh – yes! I had the same thought… Maybe not in the sense of wars, but regarding entire systems. I’m just a layman, so someone let me know if I’ve got it wrong.

    My understanding of the Law of the Conservation of Energy is that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but only changes form. Technically, then, any electrical power “generated” by wind or water turbines hasn’t really been generated, but rather mechanically removed from one system and transferred to a different one – converted from one form into another.

    Do we know:
    …what happens when energy is removed from wind currents? Does the wind slow? Cool? Both?
    …what happens when energy is removed from oceanic currents? Do the currents slow, or the waters cool (or both)?
    …what happens when energy is removed from tidal motion? Do the tides slacken or the water cool (or both)?

    Do any of these studies consider what will happen system-wide if wind farms (wherever they are positioned) gradually, maybe even imperceptibly, slow down or cool the wind? Has anyone calculated what will happen in the ocean if the currents slow down or cool down because of massive submarine turbine farms? Has anyone projected what the effect will be if tides slacken?

  13. mark wagner says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:28 am

    To avoid disastrous crashes on land & limit hazard to low altitude aviation, maybe they’d all go in the tropical oceans, attached to ships which could serve as artificial tax haven islands. Maybe housing the next three billion people before population stabilizes.

    Let’s see. At ten thousand people per ship, that’s 300,000 ships. With a mile between ships, for 300,000 miles, divided by about 15,000 nautical miles of unobstructed equatorial waters, there would have to be 20 ranks of them on either side of the equator. Might need even greater separation to keep the kites from getting entangled & stealing each others’ wind. Obviously have to fly at different altitudes.

    I’m thinking fusion. Might even be more cost effective.

  14. DD More says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:41 am

    You’re right that so far fusion has been like Pure Communism in the USSR, always 20 years in the future.

    But unlike Communism, IMO fusion will eventually arrive, maybe just about the time humanity can most use it.

  15. “You’re thinking we cannot land on the Sun, but maybe we could go at night.”

    Huh? Do you know how cold it is on the dark side of the Sun?

  16. Their key finding: winds that blow from the surface to a height of 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) appear to offer the potential to generate more than 7.5 terawatts—more than triple the average global electricity demand of 2.4 terawatts (as of 2012, according to the study).

    This is the same airspace that most of private aviation and a lot of regional commercial aviation use for cruising altitudes, around the world. All aircraft take-offs and landings (commercial and private aviation) use this airspace. The tether cables for this energy kiting scheme would be lethal hazards for all aviation. Think about that, the next time you board a plane…..

  17. I have a better idea. The mass-energy equivalence of just one stalk of asparagus could power Rhode Island for 3 weeks.

    Asparagus power to the people!

  18. I read a few years ago about using parasail-like kites to supplement the engine power of ships. I believe several ships were equiped and tested. Anyone heard anything about it recently? One thing that struck me was that by controlling the shape of the foil by rigging lines, just like a parachutist does, the kite coul dbe made to follow a vertical figure-8 pattern in front of the ship. Apparently this results in more pull (lift) from the kite.

  19. GnomePirate, that is question I’ve been pondering for years, god only knows what could happen, but I’m betting we won’t like it.

  20. Bill Marsh says:

    August 14, 2014 at 11:16 am

    So, if they start sucking all this energy out of the jet streams, wouldn’t that affect the wind pattern and subsequently the weather, if not directly beneath the turbines, but ‘downstream’, possibly in other countries?

    Whoa, I was thinking essentially the same thing.

    I guess these folks just aren’t considering what will happen if they “break wind”!!

  21. rayvandune says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

    There has been a lot of interest in wind-assisted shipping, but I don’t know the outcome of the parasail design experiment.

    More conventional designs:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/science/earth/cargo-ship-designers-turn-to-wind-to-cut-cost-and-emissions.html

    http://gcaptain.com/wind-power-return-commercial-shipping/

    Alleged experiment with a parafoil kite from 2007:

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2007/12/27/wind-assisted-shipping/

  22. Instead of helium or hydrogen filled lift bags, they could use hot air balloons fueled by propane or methane.
    CO2 is good. Its keeps us warm and feeds the plants we eat.

  23. joelobryan says:
    August 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    How about fusing H into He instead of using the light gases to fill bags?

  24. The engineering complexity of this just boggles the mind. After looking at the Google Makani system and a few minutes of thought, I can immediately see the following needs/concerns:
    * First, they need to be defined as airworthy by someone
    * Multiple high strength, flexible tethers (for redundancy); single tethers risk loss of unit and damage downrange from a crash
    * Multiple tether systems will have to not tangle
    * Lift capacity needed to overcome main unit weight, plus weight of all (redundant) tethers
    * Energy transfer cable (assuming we can’t just “beam” it to a receptor array on Earth) must also have adequate support and strain relief, thus probably needs its own support structure (could be combined as with Makani)
    * Tethers & cables must be capable of withstanding some level of tornado force winds (200 MPH or greater), which will further impact the lift capacity calculation; the higher the unit flies, the quicker must be the response to ground the systems in a “wind farm” when bad weather approaches
    * Energy transfer system may also need to have some degree of redundancy
    * Lift capacity must also be capable of overcoming wind forces on the tethers & power cables
    * Ground-level power connection to the grid would likely need special design to accommodate the high input rates, as well as a rapid reversal of full production to small consumption during landing operations for maintenance or severe weather
    * Tethers have to be attached to “something,” so anchorages would need to be made or formed (could we use some sort of connection to a mass of bedrock?); anchorages and ground stations, (e.g., Makani’s) need to be secured and monitored
    * Risk management or insurance (or liability waiver/government backing) needed to address a potential system failure that results in catastrophic crash, potentially in a densely populated location (i.e., proximate to areas of greatest demand demand)
    * Launching logistics: location needed near point of assembly/manufacture or, alternatively, a means to “transport” an airborne unit over significant distances or, alternatively, multiple points of assembly & manufacture near intended launching point & final unit position (talk about NIMBY opposition!)
    * Tethers & power cables also pose significant hazard potential for drones (love ‘em or hate ‘em), hot air balloons & other dirigibles, recreational aircraft (e.g., ultra-lights), parachutists, law enforcement and other low-flying aircraft (agricultural)
    * Risk to protected and migratory species of birds unclear (as in the past with traditional wind turbines)
    I guess I have to wonder what the energy source would be for long-term sustainable lift production.

    BTW, if someone comes up with big units that are incompatible with routine capture and release operations due to severe weather or other needs, who here is interested in taking on the “mile-high maintenance” job?

  25. Just when you begin to think that green energy proposals can’t get any stupider… and then this fricken idea comes along. But don’t worry, the same guys that brought us Solyndra are certain to form a start-up company in order to be the recipient of more Government largess.

    Maybe I’ll invest… /sarc

  26. Why do all these yokels avoid the obvious solution in plain sight?
    All the energy we need , or will ever need,is actually residing in spent uranium storage pools around the country. That “nuclear waste” stil contains more than 98% of the energy it contained before it fueled a nuclear reactor for 4 or more years. Build (completely safe) fast reactors to extract most of the remaining energy and the estimates are that this will provide all the power this country needs for 1000 years. And it won’t affect any wind patterns, etc.

  27. i have to laugh,all this fuss about removing what is essentially an inert substance from miles under the ground whose major byproduct appears to be a trace gas that increases plant growth,and the solution is to extract energy from dynamic systems that influence the biosphere ,wind ,solar ,wave and tidal energy. you really could not make it up,absolute ******* morons.

  28. Dave says:

    August 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Just when you begin to think that green energy proposals can’t get any stupider… and then this fricken idea comes along. But don’t worry, the same guys that brought us Solyndra are certain to form a start-up company in order to be the recipient of more Government largess.

    Maybe I’ll invest… /sarc

    Good idea – get in while the subsidies are high, take a profit, and sell.

    I’m in.

  29. Ive been giving this some thought. Why not enclose the Sun to Mars orbit in a gigantic ‘Dyson Sphere’ and cover the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the sphere with solar panels. That should generate more than enough energy to meet our needs foor quite some time. Impractical you say? No more impractical than this harebrained scheme.

  30. If you extract a significant portion of wind energy, you will seriously alter wind patterns. Let’s
    see some research on that side-effect before proceeding.

  31. Engineering issues aside, you cannot GET energy without taking it. removing energy from the jet streams could have repercussions with precipitation patterns.

  32. Bill Marsh says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:16 am
    So, if they start sucking all this energy out of the jet streams, wouldn’t that affect the wind pattern and subsequently the weather

    Global calming, the next great extinction.

  33. Some of these folks obviously have a lot of ignorance about our nation’s energy system :
    “From an engineering point of view, this is really complicated,” said NCAR scientist Luca Delle Monache, a co-author of a new study examining these issues. “But it could greatly increase the use of renewable energy and move the U.S. toward the goal of energy independence.”
    We have no “energy dependence” except for oil, and these wind machines can’t produce anything but electricity, which cannot replace oil (at this time, or anytime soon). Wind power can
    have no effect on energy independence. Sen Max Baucus made the same stupid claim years ago when he was christening a wind turbine.

  34. Sounds like a great plan! I think I have the perfect name for this wonderful system. We could call it ” SKYNET”.

  35. i may not be near clever enough but I think of a conductor extending from a mile above all the way to the earth as problematic. It would be a natural path for grounding clouds (Basically a carrie for lightning). A conductor large enough to carry the regular amperage plus lightning strikes would be pretty substantial and then the conversion equipment on the ground would have to be able of surviving the strikes. If they haven’t thought this far ahead (maybe they have and there are very interessting solutions they can share) it’s premature to be touting the potential.

  36. I think a fleet of these should be moored directly above NCAR, wired to NCAR and then all other power sources to NCAR should be cut. I also believe personal experience is often the best teacher.

  37. Vermin Supreme for president!
    He promised to harness zombie’s power to generate electricity and give everyone a pony! And he wore the coolest boot on his head.
    Only lost to Obama because Obama promised to heal the earth and stop the oceans from rising. At least he can keep a promise.

  38. Does anyone want to buy my “Solar Freakin’ Roadway” stock so I can invest in this?
    We just need to invent a way to make more Helium, Super Conducting-Super strong tethers and anti-gravity system to keep it from falling on our heads.

  39. GnomePirate says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Gnome, you ask very pertinent and important questions Gnome which deserve much more attention (IMHO) than they seem to be getting these days. Are we not messing with Nature in ways which we do not yet fully understand (if at all) when we steal energy away from the Earth’s natural systems (the jet stream and ocean currents)? Do we know what the consequences of that theft are going to be as regards the Earth’s climatic and weather systems? Have these questions been studied at all by science? Is all that energy not in those systems for an important reason?

    It seems to me that we are putting the cart before the horse here when we decide HOW we are going to do this before we take the time to ask ourselves the above questions and seek the answers.

    In my view, climate alarmists who are also wind and ocean energy supporters are being hypocritical and creating a double standard here. On one hand, they get all worked up over the human contribution to the CO2 content in the atmosphere and its supposed impact on the Earth’s climate. Then, on the other hand, they see no problems with the idea of removing energy from the worlds ocean currents and jet stream while all the time knowing (or maybe not knowing) the role that those systems play in the Earth’s climate and weather.

    Perhaps Gnome and I are getting excessively alarmist with these questions….or maybe not. I don’t know because I am not a scientist. I do believe however that we should at least study these questions before taking the ocean and wind energy football and running with it.

  40. rayvandune says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I read a few years ago about using parasail-like kites to supplement the engine power of ships.

    Hey that could work, if we orient the kites normal to the wind direction and attach them to tall poles sticking out of the ship, let’s call them “masts”…

  41. A plague of enginasters. The great Dr. John Brignell, electrical engineer extraordinaire, has analyzed this approach to power generation and found it wanting. Google ‘enginaster’ and select the hit referencing the numberwatch blog. Very educational.

  42. Aw, good grief.

    Mind you, it wouldn’t surprise me if some idiotic politician takes this up and tries to “sponsor” the idea so that some other idiot can apply for a grant to investigate the idea further.

    Now that I come to think of it, I suppose I could investigate it a bit more. As a sailor AND a seaman I probably have a fair idea about how the wind works.
    Where can I apply for the grant?

    Who said that I was an idiot? How dare you.

    (Bring on the fracking and the coal mining and forget about all these stupid fanciful ideas from people with nothing useful to take up their time.)

  43. Oldseadog says:
    August 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Gas-rich Russian intentions on East Ukraine may help to focus minds in Germany & elsewhere in Europe on the advantages of fracking & coal.

  44. Why go to all the bother of flying a kite a mile high; maybe they could put engines on it, and dispense with the cable.

    But actually, there’s far more energy than that wind, just laying around on the ground. You see crows and other birds, picking at the dirt, and coming up with a beak full of next to nothing. seems hardly worth the energy stooping down to get it.

    Well I was thinking of all the solar photons that the earth lands on every day. They all end up on the ground, hardly damaged at all. We just need to go out and sweep them up. There’s a whole gigawatt just laying around per square km, and we should be able to get our hands on about one fifth of those.

    Did anybody compute the power density of this barrage balloon, including of course the earth surface area, swept out by those mega cables as the wind direction does a slow 360 over time.

    As for (con)fusion power; so you get few picosecond blast at 16 megawatt. How much of the chemical fuel, was consumed during that 400 second burn.

    Do these Tokamakanics say what chemical they are using for fuel, is it Deuterium, or Trtium, or is it both. And how do they bring the fuel into the Tokamachine , and more importantly; how do they remove the garbage (chemical) that they make with this squisher, while still keeping it running putting out usable power.

    A Tokamachine supposably, uses EM fields to squish the fuel. Please don’t call this the sun in a bottle. The sun (gravity) sucks; but the Tokagizmo blows. So the sun just sweeps up its own fuel, by suction, and brings it in, and puts it in the right place , toward the center of mass, all without being touched by human hand.

    So we couldn’t turn the sun off even if we wanted to. It is a self organizing autonomous power station that just goes by itself, with no control room. And if (when) it runs out of fuel, it will just move its operations to some smaller quarters, and pretty soon it will fire up again burning a new fuel, which will also be just lying around in the right place..

    The Tokamakers will still be trying to stop their contraption from busting out of its bottle all over the place.

    One day, they might hear about Earnshaw’s Theorem, and then they can all go fishing.

  45. On a windless day the cable angle is 90º and length = altitude, efficiency = 0. At maximum safe windspeed what is the cable angle and cable length? At minimum unsafe windspeed what is the cable angle and cable length? At what natural force does the cable separate from the generator and fall to the ground (in the Hamptons, presumably)? How many power lines are impacted? How many miles of traffic (including commuter rail) are backed up while the maintenance people pull miles of cable off the roofs of homes and power lines (presumably in the Hamptons), How many renewable fueled trucks are required to keep on standby to haul those miles of cable pieces to a reclamation facility? I presume these trucks will be rarely needed, but to ensure quick response the should be parked in the Hamptons, and the drivers, welders, and laborers will also be housed nearby.

    No problem. Somebody cut a check for a dozen or so.

  46. Wouldn’t it be simpler to install turbines in the gulf stream, fixed to the ocean floor. Near Florida, the gulf stream is about 5 mph, more or less always very close to that speed. The mass of water, as compared to air, would provide a huge amount of energy. However, don’t get me wrong, carbon dioxide is healthful to humanity, even above 800 ppm, plus inexpensive energy is especially important to the impoverished in this world.

  47. george e. smith says:
    August 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Can’t say if magnetic containment will prove a better approach than lasers or some other system, but there are lots of small scale tokamaks operating all over the world now. Maybe the engineering problems are not solvable, but IMO they’re less of a waste of money than the Green Energy scams.

  48. A good illustration of the fact that we will never run out of energy. the whole universe is made out of it.
    The more people there are, the more things we discover and the better our technologies for increasing life.
    Yes, this particular article is about crackpot crap (probably), So what? Some things work.
    But we are carbon-based life forms. Fossil fuels and only fossils increase the amount of Life we can have in this world.

  49. Harnessing the wind has the immediate drawback of any dilute energy source. Some very dense energy sources are becoming mature enough to be brought into the market in the very near future. They will not only out produce the diffuse sources they will eventually remove the need for a grid and replace all current sources .

    Look at Blacklight Power who have developed a power source with a million times the power density of a car engine with an anticipated cost of less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour. They project field testable units in 14 to 16 weeks. http://www.blacklightpower.com/

    Or Solar Hydrogen Trends who have developed a process to produce hydrogen from water at an energy equivalent cost of 1.3 cents per kilowatt hour. http://www.solarhydrogentrends.com/

    Or Lawerenceville Plasma Physics who are nearing proof of concept on a small hot fusion generator that generates no radioactive waste and electricity at a tenth the cost of coal facilities. http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/

    Or Andrea Ross’s E-Cat that expects to announce a functioning 1 megawatt plant this fall that produces no waste product or radiation. http://www.e-catworld.com/

    With these and other innovations in the game I don’t think this crazy scheme of windmills floating in the air has any future.

  50. Jim G says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Why not just land some fusion generators on the Sun and beam the energy down to Earth? You’re thinking we cannot land on the Sun, but maybe we could go at night.

    Or in winter, when it’s not so hot.

  51. Air density would be lower which means the energy content in the wind would be lower. Apparently the lower air density also means the turbines can operate at higher speeds.

    Presumably the maths works to make it worthwhile.

  52. He who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty, but he who works [drills, fracks] his land will be kept safe.

    Proverbs

  53. The clippings from a single haircut [100 g] – fully converted to energy according to e=mc2 would provide about 1.4 terawatts for a whole year – the entire world’s power needs. So what’s the problem?

  54. I’m not a scientist, but doesn’t every action have an equal and opposite reaction? If we use this wind energy, coudn’t it mess up the circulation of the weather systems and cause havoc?

  55. Wow! They discovered the jet streams and all that air movement known as “weather”. Tethered systems have issues. Search the web for Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS). High winds are real killers of TARS systems. To maintain a 3 mile height they need at least 5 miles of cable else turbulence will snap the cable while, of course, the blimp crashes.
    It’d be better to drill into the magma. One could call all the “start-ups” (code for boondoggle) the Fracking Lava Industry. Obtw, there are still polices of Y10K insurance available on the web.

  56. with wind turbines we have bird choppers.
    with tethered balloon turbines, cessna choppers.
    with Gulf Stream turbine, flipper and manatee choppers

  57. oh wow, what a brilliant idea; life could never go on without this. I want one! where can i get one of those? i need it now, because i’m about to blow my…………………. out.

    again pathetic. move on people, go for a walk in the woods or something.

  58. Anth0ny:

    High altitude wind is one of several impossible power generation schemes which repeatedly obtain research funding from governments. The two other most popular are hot rocks and underground coal gasification.

    These schemes each have some similarity to an existing source of energy but promise to overcome a problem with the existing source. In each case the snake-oil salesmen promote the potential to overcome an existing problem, and in the case of high altitude wind the potential is said to be a solution to the problem of wind power being intermittent. But the problems of the ‘solution’ are not obvious to people who lack numeracy; e.g. politicians. And in the case of high altitude wind the main problem is lack of any materials – or ideas for methods – capable of providing the electricity cables.

    Politicians often fund studies on paper or as physical trials of impossible power generatyion schemes. Indeed, such trials are commonly made when the politicians know a scheme won’t work; for example, hot rocks trials were conducted as an excuse for the then ongoing closure of the British coal industry.

    Richard

  59. Somebody called these schemes “pie in the sky” dreams.
    What goes up, must…….

    (Hopefully only the schemers will be the ones looking up when that happens.8-)

  60. richardscourtney says:
    August 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm
    .
    “hot rocks”
    ..
    Hellisheidi Power Station Iceland 303 MW
    Navy Geothermal Plant United States 270 MW
    Malitbog Geothermal Power Station Philippines 233 MW
    Wayang Windu Geothermal Power Station Indonesia 227 MW
    Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station II Mexico 220 MW
    Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station III Mexico 220 MW
    Darajat Power Station II, III Indonesia 200 MW
    Salton Sea Power Station United States 185 MW
    Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station I Mexico 180 MW
    Mahanagdong Power Station Philippines 180 MW
    Mount Salak Indonesia 180 MW
    Calistoga Power Station United States 176 MW
    Te Mihi Power Station New Zealand 166 MW
    Wairakei Power Station New Zealand 157 MW
    Jermaghbyur Geothermal Power Plant Armenia 150 MW
    Reykjanes Power Station Iceland 150 MW
    Kamojang Geothermal Power Plant I, II, III Indonesia 140 MW
    The Geysers 13 United States 138 MW
    Nga Awa Purua Power Station New Zealand 132 MW
    Upper Mahiao Power Station Philippines 125 MW
    Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station Iceland 120 MW
    Valle Secolo power station Italy 120 MW

    want more?

  61. Malc:

    re your post at August 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm.

    Yes, there are many variations of the high altitude wind idea and – as you say – several “seem feasible”. But none are useful until the problem of getting the power down is overcome and there are no materials or ideas for a suitable power cable.

    As I said in my post at August 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm,
    “High altitude wind is one of several impossible power generation schemes which repeatedly obtain research funding from governments. The two other most popular are hot rocks and underground coal gasification.”

    Richard

  62. There’s a lot of cattle producing methane. If only we could harness that power source. Now that really would be capturing low level wind!

  63. Didn’t Ben Franklin first use a kite to gather electricity?
    At first blush, it doesn’t sound all that bad… But flying wind tunnel / windmills (as depicted in the picture) seem like giant flying death traps. And someone mentioned the cable — It would likely be steel, and if the thing was working properly, charged with 10,000 volts or some huge amount, to efficiently transfer the power to the ground for collecting, adjustment, and transmission to someplace it can be used.
    And speaking of the giant flying wind tunnels of doom overhead at 10,000 feet attached to giant steel cables (which are packing 10,000 volts) — surely government regulations would sensibly require these installations (arrays of these flying wind tunnels of doom) to be spaced 10,000 feet apart or so (so the cables can’t tangle), and also severely limit what types of things can be built in the “crash zone” (like I don’t know, refineries, nuke plants, hospitals, dog houses, etc)
    Anyways — putting enough of these things together to power a city or something might end up looking like there is a menacing invasion of nazi zeppelins hovering just outside of town. (And I’d dare you to take a drive through the wasteland under the swarm!)

  64. Edward Richardson:

    At August 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm I wrote

    High altitude wind is one of several impossible power generation schemes which repeatedly obtain research funding from governments. The two other most popular are hot rocks and underground coal gasification.

    These schemes each have some similarity to an existing source of energy but promise to overcome a problem with the existing source. In each case the snake-oil salesmen promote the potential to overcome an existing problem, and in the case of high altitude wind the potential is said to be a solution to the problem of wind power being intermittent. But the problems of the ‘solution’ are not obvious to people who lack numeracy; e.g. politicians. And in the case of high altitude wind the main problem is lack of any materials – or ideas for methods – capable of providing the electricity cables.

    Politicians often fund studies on paper or as physical trials of impossible power generatyion schemes. Indeed, such trials are commonly made when the politicians know a scheme won’t work; for example, hot rocks trials were conducted as an excuse for the then ongoing closure of the British coal industry.

    At August 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm you have replied by demonstrating the truth of my statements with regard to hot rocks.

    Geothermal power is useful and effective where it is possible. Iceland obtains most of its energy from geothermal power. But the problem with geothermal energy is that it is only obtainable in a few locations. Hot rocks is said to overcome this problem by obtaining heat from slightly heated rock formations which exist in very many places.

    Your post attempts snake-oil selling by confusing geothermal and hot rocks in precisely the manner I mentioned in my post. Indeed, you list geothermal power stations and pretend they are hot rocks schemes.

    In hot rocks two (or more) holes are bored into the ground. The strata of the hot rock is cracked between the holes and water is pumped down one hole so it flows through the cracks and returns up the other hole. Thus, the water is heated by the hot rock. But the strata settles to close the cracks. This can be reduced by adding sand to the water so it jams open the cracks, but this only reduces the rate of settling. More cracks have to be created to maintain water flow. Before long more energy is expended in cracking rock than is obtained as heat from the rock because hot rocks don’t supply much heat.

    Understanding of this balance between energy expenditure and energy obtained requires adequate numeracy. And, as I said,
    “But the problems of the ‘solution’ are not obvious to people who lack numeracy; e.g. politicians.”

    So, I thank you for your post because it provides a clear demonstration for any who may have doubted what I wrote.

    Richard

  65. richardscourtney says:
    August 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    pretend they are hot rocks schemes.””
    ..
    No need to “pretend” all of the geothermal plants listed work by means of “hot rocks”

  66. Today’s wind farms are bad enough, but at the scale envisaged would there be an impact on Earth’s rotation? Muck around with that at your peril!

  67. “Low-level jets. Such jets can be ideal for energy because their speed and density is as high or higher than jets at higher elevations that would be beyond the reach of tethered wind devices. They also blow more steadily than winds captured by conventional wind turbines near the surface, potentially offering a more reliable source of energy.”
    This concept was discussed years ago on physics forms, where a bunch of greenies hang out. The jet stream moves around, so even if you could capture the wind today; tomorrow it would be somewhere else. The same applies to LLJ’s..

    http://www.theweatherprediction.com/severe/llj/

  68. The thing that really gets me about this is that the people on the other side of this
    argument seem to endorse only those forms of energy that are either impractical
    or insane.

    Let us say we float millions of these devices at some desired altitude. How do we
    get the power back to Earth? In a sane world, that would end the idea that this
    approach would work, but in a world where the greenies believe that an industrial
    economy can be powered by unicorn farts, this concept will still be around in
    50 years.

  69. Electricity is not the only energy form there is and it doesn’t meet the needs of diverse applications. Moving it around is a problem. Electricity won’t move us & our stuff across great the distances that have to be traveled. Electricity can not yet match the energy density of gasoline or diesel or jet fuel. One dimensional thinking isn’t going to solve energy’s multi-dimensional challenges.

  70. One has to love these large-scale, hair-brained schemes as energy solutions. Energy abounds–we just need “free” machines to tap it.

  71. Edward Richardson says:
    August 14, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Actually, geothermal power works by means of hot water, not hot rocks. The hot water might heat the rocks through which it passes, but the rocks themselves don’t need to be particularly hot for hot water from the earth to be used in steam generators or some other method for conversion to electricity or as a direct heating method.

  72. milodonharlani says:
    August 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    “not hot rocks. ”

    The source of the heat for geothermal energy is the rock..
    The water carries the heat up from the rocks to the surface.
    You can view “hot rock” if you travel to Hawaii and see Kīlauea.
    The rock is so hot, it is fluid.

  73. Yoking the katabatic winds at the antarctic coasts… maybe. Probably the best place on Earth to make a go of wind power.

    How to access and transmit power to the ground isn’t difficult:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/03/kitegen-reveals-some-progress-with-3.html

    The kite is anchored to the ground via a high strength polymer cable, the cable from the kite moving in orbit of the ground station turns a turbine. But this would block off huge swaths of airspace, especially if each kite is floating at 1500+ meters up.

  74. If someone could make unsubsidized money from this idea, it will fly. Then we all profit. If not, it’s a tax-payer funded scam. Simple.

  75. I’d like to see how such a device would stand up to a severe thunderstorm (would likely be hit by a few every year).

  76. Edward Richardson says:
    August 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t have to go to Hawaii. I’m surrounded by geothermal power & hot springs here in Oregon & where I live in Chile, although I used to live in Hawaii.

    Molten magma isn’t “rock”. It’s made out of some of the same materials as rocks, but in geology, to be a rock, you have to be solid.

  77. milodonharlani says:
    August 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm
    ..
    If you wish to split hairs about the definition of molten rock, be my guest. But that does not change the fact that the heat energy for geothermal energy, and hot springs comes from “hot rock”

    PS…here’s a diagram of Hellisheiði
    …..
    The Smiley face is the “hot rock”

    http://www.or.is/vinnsluras/

  78. Several posters have already addressed the killer point here, but I will just add my two cents.

    The problem is the cable or tether. There is just no way to do it, short of pie in the sky carbon nanotubes. Even then you need heavy copper to bring the power down.

    The first time I saw high altitude wind proposed, I fooled around with the idea a bit and right away saw that the cable was a deal-killer. Any wind power idea must use the earth’s surface as the Newton’s 3rd Law opposite force for the collector thrust. For high altitude wind, the problem is greatly worsened because the stress on the cable must go up with the secant of the tether angle. That intrinsically means a whole LOT of tension on the cable. Either a low angle and a miles long heavy cable, or a high angle and an impossibly high stress on the shorter (but still very long) very very heavy cable.

    Ain’t never gonna work. The cable will weigh too much.

  79. Edward Richardson says:
    August 14, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for the cute diagram, but I know how geothermal power works.

    What you call splitting hairs, I call science, which relies upon precise definitions wherever possible. Why stop at the magma though? The ultimate sources of geothermal power are about 80% nuclear (radioactive decay) & 20% residual heat left over from the formation of the earth.

  80. milodonharlani says:
    August 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    ” I know how geothermal power works.”
    ..
    Yes you do, as you clearly indicated in a prior post….

    “The hot water might heat the rocks through which it passes, but the rocks themselves don’t need to be particularly hot”

  81. milodonharlani says:

    August 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    “I don’t have to go to Hawaii. I’m surrounded by geothermal power & hot springs here in Oregon & where I live in Chile, although I used to live in Hawaii.”
    ============
    You certainly are well traveled, got data ?

  82. nickreality65 says:
    August 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    “Electricity is not the only energy form there is and it doesn’t meet the needs of diverse applications. Moving it around is a problem. Electricity won’t move us & our stuff across great the distances that have to be traveled. ”

    Well it did for my weekly commute of 350 km (220 miles) a year ago. I used a thing called a train. We have them here in Germany. Pretty fast as well.

    Electric “cars” will become rather interesting once they don’t have to carry their electricity around with them in a big heavy bucket.

  83. Does anyone know – just offhand – what a 10KW (for instance) generator/gear-set/control system weighs?

    I would be interested in the kinetic energy calculation (in TNT – approx 4.7 megajoules per kilogram) for one of these falling at terminal velocity.

  84. Hmm. A mile or more of cable capable of taking 11kVa (the transmission voltage of ‘bulk’ electricity) is going to weigh what? And how muich energy is it going to take any sort of platform to keep that mile-long weight up in the air?
    And when the wind blows, or a storm comes through?
    This is only pie in the sky!

  85. one of those cable breaking up top will whip you good when it lands.
    also need to deal with grounding them and doing corrosion prevention to prevent static charges.

  86. For those pondering the effect on the winds with energy being removed, I would expect the effect would be to slow the winds so the Coriolis force would have less effect. Therefore, the winds would tend to blow in a more poleward direction. This could have a significant effect on climate to the East and poleward side of the turbines. But as the idea is infeasible for so many reasons (severe turbulence, icing, hail to name a few), changes in climate are not something to worry about.

  87. So; we send up hundreds of big-ass balloons attached to 2mi+ copper cables to make a Faraday cage the size of Texas. Superb lightning rods. Twister season weaves them into baskets. Years in the making, then the jet stream moves. My hairs hurt.

  88. It’s the criminally stupid ideas of these self appointed
    rulers/ would be messiahs of mankind that people need to be protected
    from!

  89. A typical 1.5MW GE wind turbine nacelle and rotor blade assembly weighs 92 tons (excluding the tower). Suspend that!

  90. “””””…..milodonharlani says:

    August 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    george e. smith says:
    August 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Can’t say if magnetic containment will prove a better approach than lasers or some other system, but there are lots of small scale tokamaks operating all over the world now. Maybe the engineering problems are not solvable, but IMO they’re less of a waste of money than the Green Energy scams……”””””

    Well we know that thermonuclear fusion works; it’s called an H-Bomb.

    Well it’s more likely it’s a D-T reaction as that has the lowest ignition condition, with a Lawson criterion of 5E19 s.m^-3 (seconds per cubic meter).

    But now you have to make Tritium, in a fission reactor. So why not just build fission reactors. There’s NO Tritium in SF Bay, but plenty of Deuterium.
    So you better plan on the D-D reaction; not the D-T.

    D-D has a Lawson criterion of 1E21 s.m^-3 , 20 times the D-T ignition condition, and the D-T gives you 17.60 MeV per fusion, versus only 4.04 MeV for D-D, if you get T, or 4.04 MeV if you get 3He plus a neutron (helium 3)..

    I don’t know how you select the reaction products, or what mix you get if you can’t select, but both reactions only produce garbage, and the neutrons mean material deterioration.

    But Laser implosion is just an H-bomb, in miniature. you use a laser to squish the fuel, instead of a fission A-Bomb., and your fuel capsule is vaporized, in the process, so you have to go and buy a new one for each hammer whack; it’s a whack-a-mole Rube Goldberg machine.

    If the laser(s) all operate in sync, it crushes, instead of bursting out one side.

    So it isn’t stable, controlled fusion. It’s quite uncontrollable in fact. That is “Inertial” confinement.

    Tokamaks use pulsed magnetic fields. So they are dynamic systems. Earnshaw’s theorem says there is NO stable electric or magnetic field squisher possible, since the EM force blows, instead of sucks, so once again you don’t have a continuous stable process, including removing the reaction products (garbage) and inserting new fuel.

    If you supplied those fields all the time for a continuous reaction, the field coils would evaporate from se;f heating.

    So I wouldn’t invest one brass razoo in any of these schemes.

    The tether balloon is at least as practical as fusion.

  91. That mysterious hot water, which came first the water or the rock, brings with it lots of nasty challenges, hydrogen sulfide, arsenic. Check the utility’s experience at the Geysers geothermal power plants in California. Ask New Zealand about subsidence caused by pulling lots of hot rock/water out of the formations. All kinds of answers, all kinds of solutions, but what, exactly, is the problem?

  92. The CAGW rent seekers are insane….

    E=MC^2 is 1,000,000 times stronger than F=1/2MV^2….

    The US just needs to spend about $60 billion/yr for 30 years building LFTRs and the US could be 100% energy independent burning thorium; just 0.4%/yr of GDP.

    Pie-in-the-sky SCI-Fi scams like wind farms tethered 1 mile up in the air are just fodder for useful idiots to give them BS talking points during energy committee meetings and excuses to waste more taxpayer money on completely insane and impractical projects.

  93. Sweet Old Bob says:
    August 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Long past time to abolish NCAR & GISS to help reduce the trillion invented & borrowed dollar deficit of the US four trillion dollar federal budget.

  94. Flydlbee says: “This would be vehemently opposed by most of the aviation community; the cable connecting these devices to the ground would be lethal to aircraft.”
    (Mac the Knife, Eugene say similar.)

    Aha, kapitalist despoilers of the planet, you mistake this for a bug! But is not. Is a feature.

    /s

  95. Extracting energy from jet streams is a rather old concept.
    It probably ranks on a par or maybe somewhat worse than the solar panel and wind industries in that the amount of energy that has to be put in to design, build, launch, control, repair and maintain the system along with power losses and power withdrawn from the grid in times such as when the jet stream turbines are maneuvering or are down for repairs and maintenance, the power required to cover all these factors could be arguably greater than the entire generated output of power of the entire system throughout it’s entire economical life time.

    [ About 13 % average but varies between about 9% to 16% of their total output is withdrawn back from the grid for wind turbines for them to keep operating when they are not generating [ enough ] power themselves which is about 20 or 30% of the time ]

    In fact the whole system would probably not even generate enough power to meet it’s running and overall maintenance costs as those energy costs would be so high just to maintain, run and service the entire system of jet stream turbines. Plus ground to air power transmitting and anchoring cabling. Plus massive mobile ground handling winches for the cabling. Plus power grids that have to cover the whole country so as the turbines are moved around to keep within the constantly changing tracks of the jet streams, the turbines can be connected to the nearest grid in a couple of hours and so on, all reliant on completely inaccessible, a couple of tens of kilometres up, airborne, immense in size, highly technical and sophisticated but fragile, to keep the weight down, turbines, all at the end of some very long, constantly in unpredictable motion, cabling systems that are live with a few tens of kilovolts running through it.
    There may not even be enough power left over after the entire system has taken it’s power requirements for use by the groundlings far below.

    And of course, like solar and wind turbines it would never replace ground base load generators but just be totally useless and completely unnecessary, an extreme economical extravagance , an additional parasitic add on which would again, like solar and wind power now, would need and demand the base load power generating capability be always there that would be able to generate the entire needs of our civilisation when solar and wind are not generating any useable or enough power.
    Add the further total unpredictability and utter complication of the jet stream turbines if they were ever even possible to build, into that mix and the whole idea aligns with stupid is as stupid does, an impressive characteristic of just about every would be climate science whacko and their attempts to “stop global warming”.
    ;
    A modicum of thought applied to this whole idea would have seen it’s immediate rejection.

    But, sadly, “a modicum of thought” is a quite foreign concept to most of these climate science whackos who like to assume the title of “scientists”, to real science’s great detriment, and who promote these particular brands of straight out lunacy

  96. Luckily, whoever thinks these flying windmills are a good idea will need engineers to build and operate them, and these engineers will stop the government from wasting our money because they’ll be laughing.

  97. Hmm, kevlar cables and microwave transmission of electricity like the Solar Power Sat people propose? Yeah I know the whole idea is nuts. I like SPS better for the side benefits – a real spacefaring civilisation.

  98. Couple of counterpoints to the naysayers: tethered balloons already exist in practice along the US/Mexico border and on coastguard ships around Florida. They are routinely operated to 10,000ft and carry radar and other instruments, and have a tether stretching to the ground.
    However, the proposal for wind turbines is a doozy because:
    1. The aerostat has to be staffed 24/7. It must be retrieved in high wind or storm conditions. This would require the use of winches powered by a reliable method of power (fossil fuel powered generators or mains electricity). Also required would be:
    a. Office and other accommodation
    b. Maintenance facilities due in part to the necessary requirement for isolated areas for implementation of the aerostats.
    c. Power supply to the above facilities
    2. It cannot operate for long in snow or ice conditions without either storing in a hangar or having staff remove the snow with ropes or some some other method. The weight of the snow and/or ice will destroy the aerostat.
    3. The weight of the cable by which to transfer electricity to the ground would be prohibitively heavy. The generator would be comparatively small and almost useless.
    4. The systems would be unlikely to operate in hurricane areas. Without indoor protection, or the ability to rapidly move the systems 100’s of miles in a 24 hour period, they will be destroyed on the ground by a hurricane.

    The aviation industry is overwhelmed by dreamers with big ideas. Just add these idiots to the pile.

  99. This stupidity reminds me of some TV show I watched on the idiotic theories of Erich
    von Daniken about alien visitations in ancient times. One segment put forth the
    theory that the 20 ton blocks that were used to construct the pyramids were lifted into
    place with gigantic kites, yes kites!

    Any kite large enough to accomplish such a task would no doubt collapse under its
    own weight. I cannot think of an engineer who could accomplish the task who would
    not say why bother, the ancient Egyptians had the wedge, the inclined plane, the wheel
    and draft animals!

    I actually worked with a fellow Millwright and von Daniken believer who worked with me
    on a job where we rolled a straight 8 industrial engine weighing 90,000 pounds on
    schedule 80 pipes that was then loaded onto a trailer with a portable crane. The
    guy asserted that there were no cranes in existence (1988) that could have lifted
    those blocks to build the pyramids. I did not have the heart to tell him that cranes
    existed back then that could lift millions of pounds.

    Here is a little crane that is used to change out the 600,000 pound coker drums
    at the Chevron refinery in El Segundo:

  100. The ITER Scientists will want to play with their new ITER Tokamak toy for a while after it starts up in 36-48 months from now. But only for a little while, like 10 -15 years before they try to put actual fusion fuel in it and make actual useable Energy, as it was designed to do. (By that time the, Chinese will be mine /importing a half ton of 2He3 dust from the Moon’s surface that will make the ITER completely radioactive free,and enough to power the entire World for 10,000 years.)

    I predict that then they will want to modify ITER to use the Chinese 2He3 fuel for another decade or so, before turning it on.

    They all went to the Government financed BOONDOGGLE School, the rest of the CAGW scammers attended.

  101. Meanwhile, Sen. Moron Markey [D MA], will sponsor a bill to fund research on the Skynet Wind turbines and Afirmative-Action abuser, Sen LiarWatha [D MA], will gladly co-sponsor it, as long as the research funding is earmarked for Cambridge, along with a rider specifying it can’t be erected in Hyanisport or Nantucket, just like Cape Wind.

    President Obozo will heartily endorse it whenever he returns from his perpetual vacation on Martha’s Vinyard.

  102. Leonard Jones says:
    August 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm
    ——————————————————————————————
    Can you move the Baalbek Trilithon stones? And then set them? There are structures on this planet that log rollers and ropes just cannot explain. Perhaps one day we will know for certain, but until then just enjoy the mystery.

  103. I’ve worked professionally on kite wind power. As someone who has actually analysed these systems there are lots of incorrect assertions above. John Brignell’s critiques are based on some incorrect assumptions about some systems and relationships he doesn’t have sufficient knowledge of. Kite lines aren’t a show-stopper, their weight is minor, and their drag issues diminish with larger scale. Kites with bridles are predominantly tensile structures and are scalable to enormous sizes (unlike wind turbines dominated by tower and blade bending loads). Power can be transferred to ground either as electricity generated aloft through conductors, or as tensile force in cable as it is paid out. Nothing prevents the use of 2 lines attached to the two wing tips of kite, so you can then use very small conductors in each line operating at very high voltages and low currents with no insulation required – but this is a solution that is only viable in larger sizes due to higher drag of 2 lines and need to keep them separated during manoeuvring which is difficult if the lines are relatively long and their separation relatively small (as is the case for current demonstrator systems).

    Due to R&D costs + tech risk first generation demonstrator systems are small (100’s of kW) and so only targeted for a few hundred meters altitude due to line drag, but economics and wind strength/power improve with scale (and height) and fundamentally there is nothing preventing GW scales operating in the Jet Stream. Finding consistent strong winds below 3000m is great news.

    The big problem for kite wind power will be getting past the economic penalty of small scale systems (just as for wind turbines that are only sort-of economic at MW scale) to develop the truly low electricity cost large systems will likely cost 100’s of millions to billions in R&D. It is sensible to walk before running, but that is the ultimate intent. Large scale makes off-shore siting economic to avoid nimbys and airspace restrictions.

    Personally I think that kite wind-power could be great for primary production of Aluminium, Cement, Steel, Chemicals, maybe even liquid hydrogen production or other power-hungry industries, on big ships that can move around to follow the wind in the roaring 40’s and furious 50’s and screaming 60’s of the southern ocean. The energy is there, but the users are not.

    Kites as sail replacements for ships are a non-starter due to economic necessity for consistent point-to-point 20kts ship speed, and relatively weak winds, Germany’s Skysail was always a foolish approach. Ships generally have headwinds more than 70% of time. But a kite wind power system on a ship could work a larger proportion of the time as wind-turbine powered craft can go any direction including directly upwind: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind-powered_vehicle at up to about half of wind speed.

  104. Yawn…

    You can’t beat burning wood for energy then regrowing trees from sunlight. Zero waste!

    Wood energy all the way!

  105. Hurricanes, tornadoes, microbursts, lightning, static charge surges. It should be great fun to see these things crashing down and destroying people and all they own. Idiots.

  106. Apologies to Godwin of course, but I can’t resist the impression that talk of new super-technologies to generate electricity sounds very like the Naz1 leaders near the close of WW2 voicing hopes in super-weapons as a vehicle of denial of the total inevitability of their impending defeat.

  107. Several questions come to mind which I suspect have been thought through by the advocates:
    The first has to do with the physics of a very long cable. Assuming the cable is tethered at the top and at the bottom, the length of the cable is limited by the strength of the material and it’s density. For a very long vertical cable supported from the top, the top of the cable must support the weight of all the cable below. Even without considering other loads a cable has a maximum length where the stress in the cable (just from weight of cable) will reach the material yield strength. Further increase in length will at some point cause the cable to fail.
    Second, the long vertical cable passing through horizontal wind velocity will be exposed to lateral forces due to drag which will deflect the cable horizontally adding tensile stresses in the cable itself. A horizontal load on a vertical cable is magnified in it’s affect on the tensile stress in the cable. It’s somewhat like a catenary cable except the cable is vertical and the loads are horizontal. Wind gusts would introduce vibration loads in the cable that increase the possibility of failure.
    Obviously and optimum cable would have a very high strength to weight ratio which means that the material is more expensive than normal cables, but every material will have a length limit.

  108. Not going to work. 3,000 m high at 60 degree angle, cable length = 3,464 m. At 52 mm diameter, the cable weighs 1,405 metric tons plus 95 tons turbine and generator. total weight = 1,500 tons. To lift all that, the balloon must be 140 m in diameter. wind speed = 69 mph. dynamic pressure of wind on balloon transmitted to steel cable = 3,140 MPa. This far exceeds the tensile strength of strongest steel cable. Cable made of carbon nanotube is strong enough but not yet commercial. The balloon is so big you can fit 6 jumbo jets inside with plenty of room to spare. All these engineering problems just to generate 1.5 MW power.

  109. They could dig their equipment deep into the ground, which would solve several issues immediately. It would be much safer that way, with no tethers, no danger of crashing, no interference with weather patterns, air traffic or bird life, while maintaining an absolutely pristine surface. Underground winds may be substantially slower, but they never change, so one could maintain the same level of output indefinitely, which could be collected completely by a virtual thin grid. Also, the control system would need no energy, because it could be based on unary logic, built of universal ignorators whose output does not depend on input and could be run at zero Hz clock frequency. An additional benefit is that software written for unary logic can’t possibly have bugs, because with our current binary logic all bugs are based on the wrong bits in the wrong place. With no choice left, that danger is ruled out.

    With sufficient subsidies this business could be made wonderfully profitable.

  110. Sorry wrong calculation. The steel cable only weighs 60 tons. So the balloon is not too big. The engineering can be solved. The problem is cost. The power generated is little more than land-based turbine as it is a function of turbine size and wind speed. But a lot more expensive to put the turbine in a balloon with 3.5 km long cable.

  111. nickreality65:

    At August 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm you ask about hot rocks

    That mysterious hot water, which came first the water or the rock, brings with it lots of nasty challenges, hydrogen sulfide, arsenic. Check the utility’s experience at the Geysers geothermal power plants in California. Ask New Zealand about subsidence caused by pulling lots of hot rock/water out of the formations. All kinds of answers, all kinds of solutions, but what, exactly, is the problem?

    I answered that in my reply to the snake-oil salesman, Edward Richardson, which I provided at August 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm and it can be read here.

    I there wrote

    Geothermal power is useful and effective where it is possible. Iceland obtains most of its energy from geothermal power. But the problem with geothermal energy is that it is only obtainable in a few locations. Hot rocks is said to overcome this problem by obtaining heat from slightly heated rock formations which exist in very many places.

    The snake-oil salesman attempted to portray geothermal power as being hot rocks and – in dispute with milodonharlani – at August 14, 2014 at 3:22 pm went so far as to assert that molten magma is hot rock. This misrepresentation ignored the part of my post to him that said of hot rocks

    Before long more energy is expended in cracking rock than is obtained as heat from the rock because hot rocks don’t supply much heat.

    Understanding of this balance between energy expenditure and energy obtained requires adequate numeracy. And, as I said,
    “But the problems of the ‘solution’ are not obvious to people who lack numeracy; e.g. politicians.”

    Which all supports my first post in this thread (at August 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm ) which began by saying

    High altitude wind is one of several impossible power generation schemes which repeatedly obtain research funding from governments. The two other most popular are hot rocks and underground coal gasification.

    These schemes each have some similarity to an existing source of energy but promise to overcome a problem with the existing source. …

    Richard

  112. LOL, this actually makes the solar roads look like a good idea. I tried asking a friend who was convinced the koch brothers will block solar roads, why we wouldnt just put them on all our buildings instead, surely this is cheaper and there is enough space. He just got mad. You gotta admit it does sound cool to be able to collect endless energy a mile off the ground. Super hip.

  113. Why not avoid all the cable/tether issues by building mile-high sky scrapers and put the turbines on top?

  114. @ Berényi Péter says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:26 pm
    +1
    Indeed, the climate obsessed are supplying their own parodies.

  115. Just a thought…. is there any way the generator could be moved to the ground?
    Say a long loop of cable, turned by the wind rotors at the top, turning a generator on the ground.
    This would get rid of the need to have the generator or power cables in the air at all, a balloon with lightweight rotor could be very light.
    The only immediate sticking block I can see would be slack in the cable loop (such as when your fan belt gets loose in a car) but I’m sure that could be overcome with some sort of notched or holed cable.

    Just a thought…

  116. When I was a lad I owned a wind up toy car – now, if only we could upscale that? The only problem is how do we turn the key?

  117. Jim G says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:27 am
    Why not just land some fusion generators on the Sun and beam the energy down to Earth? You’re thinking we cannot land on the Sun, but maybe we could go at night.
    ______
    I don’t understand why you’re not already in charge of our energy policy!

  118. You can’t beat burning wood for energy then regrowing trees from sunlight. Zero waste!

    Wood energy all the way!

    Sounds like this power source gives you a woody……

  119. Old fella . . . right idea but depth might prove to be a problem . . . here in the seas around Scotland we have an almighty amount of power awaiting to be tapped in the endless and regular flow of huge masses of water, much of it less than 200 feet deep. . yet so far there has no industrial exploitation of its massive potential – probably because of the masses of taxpayers’s money swilling about in the direction of useless wind turbines erected by the rich friends of those with political power . . Despite all of the expertise applied to extracting oil from around our waters there has been no serious transfer of interest into what could easily be the cheapest and most reliable energy source available to us here: HEP at sea. . There’s enough to power Europe if the right approach was used. . . . There has been discussion about how it should be done and the favoured solution is the installation of turbines similar to wind turbines on the sea bed . . . an utterly ridiculous proposition except that it will probably mean more money for the parasites who depend on taxpayer subsidy instead of real inventiveness and engineering brilliance, not much of which would be needed because all of the elements required have already been used to create oil rigs and HEP on rivers and Lochs . . . Real entrepreneurs are a bit thin on the ground over here . . .

  120. Maybe Weather Underground and Penn State should have a talk with engineers on the subject. For any appreciable array of these things, two things would happen: you would slow these winds down and shift the breeze away from the array and you would shade the ground, robbing it of some of its sun’s energy. I’m sure there are other undesirable effects to consider as well – rainfall patterns maybe, etc.

  121. Also, rather than floating heavy rotating machinery up into the air, build a huge penstock and pipe the breeze down to surface or underground turbines.

  122. For the future, it’ll mean that we have to expect not only chopped birds from wind mills but also chopped planes?

  123. Aha, there’s a problem with your plan. That problem is that you can’t use a cable to make it work, it would have to be a hard shaft that would be very heavy and easy to break. Trying to spin the cable would cause it to just roll up on itself or rip itself asunder.

    Either way, transferring mechanical energy over long distances is simply impractical

  124. Obviously this con-game-scheme doesn’t come from any competent engineer. A 6-mile high pinwheel would at least be barely plausible (but stupid).

  125. I take it that not too many folks here have ever flown a kite very high off the ground. The strength to weight ratio is about the only think that matters. As kids, we used to fly our kites on rope lay twisted cotton fishing line of about 8# test. Yes they broke.

    Today’s solution without a doubt, is Gel spun Polyethylene, probably 8 pick braided. It is less dense than water (floats) and a typical line (for fishing) , is about 0.25 mm diameter, and breaks at around 70 pounds tension. It has virtually no stretch, and that mostly due to the weave.
    It is made into huge cables, perhaps a foot in diameter, for towing barges. It is hydrophobic, so doesn’t pick up weight in the rain or the ocean.
    Spectra is the formal trade name. Sailors use it for light high strength lines. Maybe mountaineers use it for climbing ropes.

    Carbon nano ropes, will be along, in the market; just a tad after Fusion energy becomes common.

    In any case regardless; (or irregardless, as the case may be), the string, will hang in a Catenary curve, which is either a Kat-en-airy, or a Kit-een-uh-ree, with accent, on the first and second syllable respectively. I use the first option.

    The GG Bridge cables are NOT catenaric, because of the roughly horizontally uniform loading of the roadway, via the vertical dangles.

    But back to the kite. Eventually, no matter how long a string you have, the kite will never go above some limit height. It will simply move further down wind, and the line at the ground, will be virtually horizontal; think GGB, so the kite string always ends up in the trees, 300 meters down the street, over a neighbor’s fence. So fly your kites over the water.

    Dumb idea IMHO.

  126. Mac the Knife says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:52 am
    This is the same airspace that most of private aviation and a lot of regional commercial aviation use for cruising altitudes, around the world. All aircraft take-offs and landings (commercial and private aviation) use this airspace. The tether cables for this energy kiting scheme would be lethal hazards for all aviation. Think about that, the next time you board a plane…..

    Not, not a problem. They’d just designate a restricted airspace below QNH-Baro transition altitude and unrestricted above. That’s between 10 k to 11 k ft in Oz, and a bit higher (if I remember correctly) for North America.

    The real problem is having the airspace area available to designate a new restricted block in the first place. The congestion is terrible already in most small countries (drones have just made it worse as well) and you need about a five mile buffer around the R-border. But places like Canada, Australia and parts of Africa could deploy them. Maybe some Eastern and northern European countries could as well. If they were extra cheap and efficient airspace regulators would re-organize national airspace boundaries to accommodate them.

  127. milodonharlani says:
    August 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Maybe housing the next three billion people before population stabilizes.

    You’re off by about a factor of 5. The only UN Population Survey “band” (spreadsheet) that’s ever been even close is the Low Fertility one. It now predicts ~8bn by about 2045, declining thereafter (6,xxx,xxx by 2100). Population decline may require perfection of androids to make up the work force.

  128. My children, when much younger, had a book with a collection of trivia. I have recently seen this word picture on the web.

    All 7E9 people on earth today would fit easily inside the boundaries of the Grand Canyon with room for twice to three times more. All it takes is a simple calculator to verify this.

    Allow a 3′ by 3′ by 6′ space for each person, 54 cu ft. A triangular section a mile wide, mile deep, mile long would hold about 1.4E9 persons. Five miles would handle that. If they all curled up fetal like, 2′ by 2′ by 3′, 12 cu ft. 6.1E9 people, so a little over a mile.

    Been to IKEA? They have a display of about 400 square feet that they furnish with their products to illustrate a small apartment. If you allocated 400 sq ft to every one of those 7E9 people they would fit inside the state boundaries of Colorado.

    Ponder on that image. Every single human being inside the Grand Canyon. Not one human anywhere else on the face of the earth.

    7E9 is big number, but the number by itself can not represent any kind of problem.

    So what’s the real problem? Poverty? Disease? Wars? Hunger? The first step in a solution is describing the correct problem.

  129. Dr. Strangelove says:
    August 15, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Sorry wrong calculation. The steel cable only weighs 60 tons. So the balloon is not too big. The engineering can be solved. The problem is cost. The power generated is little more than land-based turbine as it is a function of turbine size and wind speed. But a lot more expensive to put the turbine in a balloon with 3.5 km long cable.
    _________________________
    That’s exactly the radius required to avoid the mutual entanglement of the wiring. And it is a safety zone of approx. 40 km^2 required, getting a 60-ton cable on the head isn’t funny, I presume. Now see how many solar panels a greedy rent-seeker can put on that area…
    So, this idea should go from the drawing-board directly to the dustbin.

  130. People who are dubious of the technical, engineering and operating challenges of this I’d just say I’d rather a $Trillion was poured into getting this technology up, than pouring it into a too-big-to-fail but failing nonetheless, bank, or even into fusion research, because if they crack this, and it can be scaled to compete economically with coal, we will be home and hosed for baseload energy for a billion years, at least.

    That’s a pretty solid investment yield.

  131. In Holland we had Wubbo Ockels, our first astronaut, promoting kite energy. In this system the ground-based generators are intermittently rotated by the pull of the kites.

  132. The technical minutia of this idea can be nit-picked all day long. Reminds me of those futuristic articles in 60’s era Popular Science magazines at my grandfather’s house.
    Back to the basics.
    What problem does this “solution” solve? Carbon free electricity? That’s a bogus problem so you can expect bogus solutions.

  133. Dr. Strangelove
    Your correction is accurate.
    Check out this table for steel cable

    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/wire-rope-strength-d_1518.html

    for 2″ (52) mm cable the weight per meter id 10 kg

    For 3000 meters, the weight is 30,000 kg

    The safe operating load is 285,000 Newtons. You cannot go to tensile strength
    Therefore the steel cable can be 3000 Meters long unless other loads which cause tensile in the cable are significant. Some of the other loads are caused by wind loads on cable which may be significant for wind velocities at higher elevations,, extra balloon lift above actual weights to keep cable taught, conductor cable, instrumentation cables, etc
    Every cable system with better strength to weight ratios will have a length limit,

  134. nickreality65 says:
    August 16, 2014 at 6:11 am
    What problem does this “solution” solve? Carbon free electricity? That’s a bogus problem so you can expect bogus solutions.

    True enough nick, the coal has a long way to go, and it is cheap. I don’t see its use going away. But it emits more than CO2, and soil and habit is destroyed in strip-mining, plus ancient mountain landscapes that are hundreds of millions of years old are being turned into plains and plateaus. It’s high impact and ugly. If much of that can limited or made unnecessary, I’m all for it. It does no one harm to support the development of a technology that could do the same thing as coal, with a lot fewer downsides.

    In the end it will come down to cost, and it has to stand on its own economic merit, just on operational subsidies. That said, the national grid and coal power stations in oz were all originally built with public money, as were the rail networks from the mines for the most part, and only in recent years has all this been sold to the private sector. I sure don’t want them to do that with solar and wind mills as they’re not base load, and their economics are .. phft!

  135. RobL says:
    August 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm
    I’ve worked professionally on kite wind power. As someone who has actually analysed these systems there are lots of incorrect assertions above.

    Couple of issues I see is that the bigger the balloon gets the more difficult it becomes to deal with weather, where alto cumulus can grow to a CB with powerful turbulence in under 5 minutes. It’s going to take time to get it down. So what do you do about the severe turbulence or hail hitting balloon fabric and lightning to earth? (which I expect will be very common)

    Plus the bigger the balloon the more susceptible it becomes to windshear stresses. As pilots know this often comes in the form of dust devil type circulations (sans dust, so invisible rotating air) that can be longitudinally oriented in any direction from vertical to horizontal and any angle of inclination in between. In other words, there will be strong shear loads applied to the balloon structure. so what happens if several cells rip open, does it lose altitude gracefully in a repairable way (modular replaceable cells say), or will it come crashing down destroyed?

  136. “The growing industry now includes more than 20 startups worldwide, exploring various designs for devices that could be tethered to ground stations and then raised or lowered to capture the most suitable winds at any point in time”

    The above comment from the post displays the problem with government subsidized development of new energy sources. It suggests a fragmented research typical of the DOE distributing funds to numerous “friends” without an overall plan to conduct a simplified engineering study to evaluate feasibility and enumerate the obstacles and evaluate each obstacle to determine if each hurdle has a practical solution.
    Wonder why so many of the subsidized ventures failed.
    Can any one recite the list of DOE or other successful subsided projects have provided a significant amount of renewable energy? The failure list is long including Solyndra, Range Fuels, etc.
    The US government has spent circa $150 billion dollars on Climate change in the last decade or so. What benefits have resulted from this expenditure besides global warming propaganda? . .

  137. So why does carbon equal coal? Natural gas, propane, ethanol, wood all produce that evil carbon dioxide. Do people talking carbon free realize that means back before fire? That might take few social/economic adjustments.

  138. Nick,
    They get around this with a scam by claiming that biofuels, wood, etc is renewable source of fuel.
    When the scientific study looked at ethanol from corn they found that it took 5 decades for the fuel to be considered renewable. Then “they” funded mandated ethanol from cellulosic materials which has turned out to be another huge failure. The commercially available cellulosic ethanol has seriously fell short of the mandated volumes; therefor the blenders take the EPA to court every year and a judge requires a reduction of quantities.

  139. This stupid idea comes up every few years, for at least the last few decades. The simple reply is to ask how much the tether weighs. It needs to be strong enough to resist the force of the strong winds that blow against the balloons that are big enough to support the weight of the turbine that is big enough to supply the claimed power and heavy enough so only the turbine blades turn. That calculation is beyond the ability of most of the proponents, but maybe they could tell you the liability insurance premium.

Comments are closed.