A Look at High-Altitude Wind Power Generation


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Created by William Price and Roger Walker for the 2011 Freshman Conference at the University of Pittsburgh

Published in: Technology
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A Look at High-Altitude Wind Power Generation

  1. 1. A Prospective Look at High-Altitude Wind Power William Price Roger Walker 4/9/2011
  2. 2. Global Power Consumption <ul><li>World energy production consists of about 85% fossil fuels. </li></ul><ul><li>Over 1,000 billion tons of coal exist in recoverable reserves as of 2001. </li></ul><ul><li>About 1 trillion barrels of oil are known to exist in reserves. </li></ul><ul><li>World NG reserves were estimated to hold over 6000 trillion cubic feet in 2001. </li></ul><ul><li>The United States is predicted to consume 95 quadrillion more Btus of energy in the 2050’s than it does now. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Environmental Impact of Fossil Fuels <ul><li>Carbon dioxide has often been linked to global climate change. </li></ul><ul><li>Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides have been linked to acid rain. </li></ul><ul><li>Particulates have been linked to increased rates of respiratory issues and cancer. </li></ul>
  4. 4. History of Wind Power: Ground-Based
  5. 5. History of Wind Power: High-Altitude <ul><li>The first attempt at harnessing high-altitude wind power was made during the Second World War. </li></ul><ul><li>Designs to produce electrical energy were first drafted during the 1970s and 1980s. </li></ul><ul><li>Magenn, now a forerunner in high-altitude wind power, got its start by building airships in the 1980s. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>More energy is available in high-altitude winds. </li></ul><ul><li>High-altitude turbines are expected to produce less noise at ground level. </li></ul><ul><li>Ground-based turbines are more accessible for maintenance. </li></ul>Comparison of High-Altitude and Ground-based
  7. 7. <ul><li>Wind Power Density is the measure of the amount of power that can be harnessed from the wind. </li></ul><ul><li>Winds become stronger and more consistent as altitude is increased up until 10,000 m. </li></ul><ul><li>At low altitudes, geographic turbulence occurs. </li></ul>The Science Behind High-Altitude Wind Power
  8. 8. <ul><li>These images show wind power densities across the world, from 1979 to 2006. </li></ul>Harnessing the Energy
  9. 9. <ul><li>Several companies and a university are currently developing designs to harness high-altitude wind power </li></ul><ul><li>The two we investigated were Sky Windpower and Magenn. </li></ul>Two Key Designs
  10. 10. <ul><li>Currently in development </li></ul><ul><li>Uses GPS systems and gyroscopes to monitor position </li></ul><ul><li>240 kW Prototype was tested with 90% efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>Prototype operates in wind speeds b/w 11.5 and 35 m/s </li></ul>Sky WindPower’s Design: The Flying Electric Generator
  11. 11. <ul><li>Plans to manufacture 100kW turbine this year </li></ul><ul><li>Remains afloat using helium-filled balloons </li></ul><ul><li>A prototype flown in 2008 generated 2kW of power </li></ul><ul><li>100kW design operates in winds b/w 2.5 and 29 m/s </li></ul>Magenn’s Design: Magenn Air Rotor System
  12. 12. <ul><li>Magenn: Helium leaks out of balloons </li></ul><ul><li>Sky Windpower: Failure of position controls </li></ul><ul><li>Effectively connecting to the power grid </li></ul><ul><li>“ Intermittency” – Weak winds and low power </li></ul><ul><li>Cost and materials </li></ul>Technological Problems
  13. 14. <ul><li>Gaining political and public support </li></ul><ul><li>Funding for research and development </li></ul><ul><li>Aviation conflicts </li></ul><ul><li>The threat of turbine crashes </li></ul>Socio-Political Problems
  14. 15. <ul><li>High-altitude wind is capable of costing less than coal. </li></ul><ul><li>Technological issues can be solved with time. </li></ul><ul><li>Cannot be deployed in severe weather. </li></ul><ul><li>Can drive innovation in energy storage methods. </li></ul><ul><li>A widely available source of energy. </li></ul>Evaluation of High-Altitude Wind Power
  15. 16. <ul><li>Fossil fuels provide the majority of the world’s energy, yet are linked to environmental degradation and have limited reserves. </li></ul><ul><li>High-altitude wind power offers an alternative that has yet to be fully explored. </li></ul><ul><li>It is capable of producing vast amounts of energy in theory, but more development must occur. </li></ul><ul><li>While current designs have flaws, high-altitude wind power could prove to be a major force in the energy industry. </li></ul>Summary
  16. 17. <ul><li>Images come from the following sources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.skywindpower.com/ww/index.htm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.magenn.com/ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Global Assessment of High-Altitude Wind Power” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Status of Fossil Energy Resources: A Global Perspective” </li></ul></ul>Image Credits