MIT startup Altaeros Energies has come up with a plan to produce enough electricity for more than a dozen families living off the grid in Alaska by using a giant airborne turbine, hovering 1000 feet in the air.
According to Inhabitat, the Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) will be floating over the community of Fairbanks, Alaska, for 18 months, “catching air currents that are five to eight times more powerful than winds on the ground”.
The Alaska Energy Authority granted the Altaeros Energies team $1.3 million to test their design, hoping to gain important insight into this new form of high-altitude wind technology.
Chief Executive of Altaeros Ben Glass told The New York Times that he expected his company to be able to offer residents power “at about 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, far too high for most conventional markets but still well below the 35 cents a kilowatt-hour often paid in remote areas of Alaska”.
Glass took inspiration for the BAT from the technology of blimps. And since the BAT can be adjusted in height and alignment to maximise power production, Glass says it can produce “anywhere from two to three times as much electricity as its conventional tower-mounted counterparts”.
While many things could go wrong here – storms downing it, birds getting stuck in it, or interference from air traffic – it brings those who live right off the grid cleaner energy. There are plans to take BATs to disaster zones and military bases across the globe, too.