Green Tech Talk: High Altitude Wind Energy

When we talk about wind power, many people think of massive, rotating turbines converting the motion of the air into electricity, either on land in windy locales, or out in the ocean. But the planet has much more wind than what we experience on the surface, and this is why high altitude wind power is another form of wind energy worth considering.


image via Joby

Somewhat similar to winds over the open sea, as used in offshore wind farming, winds at high altitudes tend to be faster, stronger and more predictable than winds on the ground. High altitude wind energy (HAWE) is the method of capturing kinetic and mechanical energy from winds high in the atmosphere by way of aerostats (these are balloons or airships, which use lighter-than-air gases to stay afloat), or by kites, airfoils (think windsurfing) and gliders, which may be equipped with turbines to keep them aloft. The devices may be tethered or free-floating. Electric generators using the moving air can be placed at the mooring location on the ground, or they can fly with the craft itself. Besides using the motion of wind for electricity, HAWE can also be used as a purely mechanical means of power, propelling vehicles on land and in water.

Below we’ve compiled for your reading pleasure some information and news about this high-flying form of wind power. Check them out.

  • Sky WindPower answers everything you want to know about HAWE.
  • Forbes talks about Italian energy company’s KITEnergy’s methods of capturing power from high altitude winds.
  • Recharge and REVE discuss the growth of the HAWE sector, as companies like Germany’s Skysails develop ideas for this form of wind energy. You can also check out this article by our very own Lauren Craig.
  • Wired examines the possibility of HAWE powering New York City, and even discusses some of the hypothetical plans for doing so.
  • reports on wind energy start-up company Windlift’s testing of HAWE devices on the Outer Banks of North Carolina–the same place Orville and Wilbur Wright did their airplane testing.
  • Popular Science looks at some of the high altitude wind “hotspots,” the best places to install high-flying kites for HAWE.
  • The Oil Drum looks at the benefits and challenges of HAWE in the renewable energy sector, and examines the energy needs and the renewable energy potential of the world at large.
  • For a historical perspective on HAWE, check out The Paradise Within Reach of All Men, Without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery, written in 1833 by John Adolphus Etzler, who discusses using wind to propel vehicles on land.

Laura Caseley is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and a resident of New York State’s Hudson Valley. She writes for several publications and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found painting in her makeshift studio or enjoying the scenery of her hometown.

1 Comment

  • Reply October 9, 2011

    Roger Sunderlin

    wow we are polluting the lets put stuff into the air and pollute the atmosphere.

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