Wind turbine power technology has come a long way over the centuries. Today, offshore wind technology is making it possible to generate clean energy close to areas of high population density and high demand–the coasts. But, what if a technology existed that could harness wind resources at over 1.2 miles above the earth? GL Garrad Hassan, an international renewable energy consultancy firm, has issued the first market report analyzing the fascinating new industry of High Altitude Wind Energy (HAWE). HAWE systems are designed to harness the faster, more stable air currents beyond the reach of tower-based turbines, and, hopefully, generate cheaper and more abundant electricity than current wind technology.
Technically, a HAWE system, like this one we covered last year from Joby Energy, is basically a tethered object flying at high altitude which uses a mechanical system to harness the kinetic energy from the wind to generate electricity. The report looks at the energy potential of high altitude winds, the current HAWE technologies’ market potential, and the technical and regulatory challenges faced by the nascent industry.
The report lists 22 companies that have already developed, or announced that they plan to develop, prototypes. From kites, kytoons, aerostats and gliders to sailplanes with turbines or airfoils attached; this inventory sounds more like something you would find in a toy store than something a serious investor would consider. But, the report shows that European and American HAWE developers are beginning to see an influx of investment from both private and governmental partners.
The report also shows that HAWE systems might help overcome some of the current hurdles to offshore wind development, particularly in areas where shallow water makes conventional turbine systems infeasible.