US company Makani Power is harnesses the benefits of wind energy in a new way with airborne wind turbines that generate power by flying aloft in large circles.
Compared to traditional land-based wind turbines, Makani Power says its airborne prototypes produce 50 per cent more energy, are 50 per cent cheaper, have a 10 per cent reduction in mass and have a lower impact on the environment.
The Makani tethered wind turbines fly at between 250m and 600m above ground level, which means they stay well below normal commercial and civilian aviation.
At the same time, they fly at an altitude above most birds so any potential harm to flying creatures is also minimised.
At these heights the wind is also stronger and more consistent than that which terrestrial wind farms encounter, and 90 per cent of the material used in conventional wind turbines can be eliminated.
After successfully building and testing a 30kW prototype of the wind turbine, Makani Power is working on a utility-scale system. It hopes to successfully demonstrate the commercial viability of airborne wind turbines within the next 18 months.