Altaeros Touts "Green" Helium Wind Turbine Amid Global Helium Shortage
March 30, 2012 7:51 AM
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Alternative power source might be a good idea if it wasn't for record helium shortages
Altaeros Energies is taking greenwashing to a new height with the debut of its bulbous helium filled Airborne
(AWT). The company looks to replace one depletable resource that comes out of the ground (oil/coal) with another even scarcer resource that comes out of the ground (helium).
The company recently completed testing of a 35-foot scale prototype of the Altaeros Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone, Maine. The prototype, fabricated in partnership with Doyle Sailmakers of Salem, Massachusetts, achieved several key milestones. The AWT climbed up 350 feet high, produced power at altitude, and landed in an automated cycle. In addition, the prototype lifted the top-selling Southwest Skystream turbine to produce over twice the power at high altitude than generated at conventional tower height. The turbine was successfully transported and deployed into the air from a towable docking trailer.
Altaeros is developing its first product to reduce energy costs by up to 65 percent by harnessing the stronger winds found over 1,000 feet high and reducing installation time from weeks to days. In addition, it is designed to have virtually no environmental or noise impact and to require minimal maintenance. The Altaeros AWT will displace expensive fuel used to power diesel generators at remote industrial, military, and village sites. In the long term, Altaeros plans to scale up the technology to reduce costs in the offshore wind market.
A glowing view by
paints Altaeros as some sort of jedi messiahs,
, "In an effort to harness strong high-altitude winds, the company Altaeros Energies has developed a floating wind turbine that’s a cross between a traditional windmill and a blimp. After some successful tests, the Altaeros team is confident that this new levitating wind turbine will be a viable clean energy option for remote villages and military sites."
The AWT -- a wonderfully non-green invention. [Image Source: Altaeros Energies]
Altaeros founder, CEO, and AWT inventor Ben Glass brags of his "levitating" turbines, "For decades, wind turbines have required cranes and huge towers to lift a few hundred feet off the ground where winds can be slow and gusty. We are excited to demonstrate that modern inflatable materials can lift wind turbines into more powerful winds almost everywhere—with a platform that is cost competitive and easy to setup from a shipping container."
The platform is built upon helium -- a scarce natural resource mined out of the ground.
Helium supplies are running so low that it is estimated it may
run out within 30 years
. Aside from the environmental impact of drilling to extract helium from gas pockets in the Earth's crust, there's the issue that much of the most critical physics and chemistry research relies on helium. The helium crunch has literally led to millions of dollars in lost productivity at research centers such as
CERN's Large Hadron Collider
But no worries. Let's take the last of our helium and float it up in big blimps with wind turbines attached. Clearly this deserves some sort of prize for intellectual excellence.
Floating upwards toward fail! [Image Source: Altaeros Energies]
Altaeros Energies [PDF]
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3/30/2012 9:14:34 AM
Or even mining for oil.
All are finite materials.
All are good/acceptable ideas to start with. We then must keep track of the impacts each solution brings to the table.
We know that in 500 years, oil will no longer be sustaining our lifestyle, not as we currently use it anyway. And the same may be applicable for lithium for batteries or helium for this project. Preferably we can find solutions that have less of an impact than the current oil solution...
3/30/2012 11:53:57 AM
Oil can be resynthesized, lithium and iron can be recycled, and all the matter (atoms) themselves stay on Earth even if they get recombined into new compounds. Helium is a very different story. Helium is lost to space and cannot and does not exist as a gas in our atmosphere naturally. We have to get helium from the ground in gas pockets. But once that's all used up, -natural helium on Earth will be gone forever-. In theory we could produce helium using fusion in the future, but that isn't happening any time soon.
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