Flying High: Blimp “BAT” for Alaska!

Alaska is considered to be the top of the world (or at least the top of the American continent) and it will soon be on top of the wind turbine stakes. The city of Fairbanks, Alaska, will soon have a resident in the form of the world’s highest wind turbine called Altaeros.  The helium-filled turbine blimp will be deployed  at 1,000 feet for 18 months at a cost of $1.3 million.

It has long been realised that wind speeds at higher altitudes can be stronger and more consistent. Research indicates that winds at 1000-2000 feet above sea level are x5 to x8  stronger than at sea or ground level. The Altaeros BAT (which stands for Buoyant Airborne Turbine) is expected to deliver double the power of a conventional turbine.

Flying High: Blimp "BAT" for Alaska!

That’s not all.  Because it doesn’t need all the paraphernalia of a standard turbine, such as a tower, concrete base, delivery, and permanent grid connection, the Altaeros BAT could be quickly established near disaster sites in remote areas and provide off-grid backup power for mobile phone base stations and rescue services temporary camps and military bases.

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There is a catch in that the Alaeros BAT technology is more expensive on a kilowatt per hour basis that standard wind turbines. In some wind-rich areas, turbines can deliver at 4-5 cents per Kilowatt Hour, while Alaeros is three to four times more expensive.  But it will be of value in areas where wind at ground level is not sufficient to engage a conventional turbine, and where normal grid electricity is already expensive, such as Alaska, or where expensive off-grid diesel generators are the main creators of power.

Altaeros raised funding for this first demonstration plant from the Alaska Energy Authority’s Emerging Energy Technology Fund, and Tata Group’s former Chairman Ratan N Tata (pictured below).

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