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  (Source: Twitter)
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 Wind Turbine (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 writes:

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 Inhabitat paints Altaeros as some sort of jedi messiahs, writing, "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."

Altaeros turbine
 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]

Sources: Altaeros Energies [PDF], Inhabitat, CTV

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RE: shortage
By JediJeb on 3/30/2012 2:17:57 PM , Rating: 2
Last time I checked they didn't inflate balloons with liquid helium or liquid hydrogen.

What you said makes sense except for this. It takes gaseous helium to make liquid helium, so in reality they are filling the balloons with the exact same thing.

In our lab, we have to use Helium because the EPA will not update their methods for chemical analysis to include the ability to switch from helium to hydrogen in the chromatographs. What is really sad is hydrogen works better but when used with a mass spectrometer it gives a slightly different mass signature, which can be standardized to compensate for yet the EPA forces us to use the mass signature that can only come from using helium. We could save thousands of dollars a year if we could switch from helium to hydrogen which could reduce the cost of testing everything from safe drinking water to hazardous waste, if only EPA would get off their duffs and ok the changes.

They did the same thing with freon, we had tests that required freon as a solvent, then they outlawed freon before they found a replacement in the testing procedures. We were spending $500 for freon on what we had been charging $15 per test before the ban. Plus the EPA would not forgo the requirement for that test so we had waste water plants and drinking water plants that had to bear the extra cost for a year until EPA approved hexane as a replacement.

RE: shortage
By Reclaimer77 on 3/30/2012 6:41:03 PM , Rating: 1
We were spending $500 for freon on what we had been charging $15 per test before the ban.

Have you bought R-22 lately? It's hitting $100/per pound! Thanks Obama and the EPA! I love paying 4 times more than before to get my AC serviced.

RE: shortage
By Ringold on 3/30/2012 8:43:41 PM , Rating: 2
Apply all those same bureaucratic problems to health care, and every other program, and.. its obvious to same why "less is more" seems a good idea to some. Other people though see no problem with such bottlenecks and inherent inefficiencies.

Indeed, you illustrate an absolutely perfect example of why central planners can NEVER possibly know how individual actors should go about their business better than those individuals do themselves.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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