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]
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
3/30/2012 8:11:57 PM
Helium on Earth is found in only a few places, like the midwest, I believe Kansas has it in abundance. It gets trapped in the same pockets in the Earth that natural gas does.
Earth's endowment of Helium comes from the radioactive decay of elements in the Earth's crust. When you hold a balloon you are basically holding a bag of alpha particles.
Helium is so light that it escapes the Earth's atomosphere, so once its released there is no way to get it back. Accordingly, you cannot refine or recover helium from the air, unlike the other gasses found in the air like nitrogen, or even some of the nobel gasses.
Helium is used in very special applications like cooling hospital imaging equipment, manufacturing LCD screens and microprocessors, and even high-tec specialized welding.
In summary it's an irreplaceable, nonrenewable, nonrecycleable resource that has dear uses to society. It's also somewhat ironic that it is scarce on Earth, because it is the second most abundent element in the known universe.
3/30/2012 8:31:22 PM
In addition the the irony of the scarcity of helium on Earth and the abundence of it in the universe, I find it poetic that the universe's helium is the result of fusion, and the Earth's is the result of fission.
3/31/2012 11:06:36 PM
I'd give you a +1, but I already posted elsewhere in this thread.
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