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Wind Power Could Get a Boost By Flying High

Flying Wind Turbine
Cost efficiency has long stood in the way of alternative energy sources becoming a major competitor for coal power, but JoeBen Bevirt thinks he has a solution that could make wind stand up to coal. His company Joby Energy has designed and built wind turbines that hover in the air, rather than being mounted on the top of large towers. His hope is that the company will be able to launch these turbines, which have already been successfully tested at lower altitudes, up to 30,000 feet in the air, where winds howl with a force up to 20 times greater than those on the ground. In addition to being able to generate more power by reaching loftier heights, the flying turbines save money on construction costs by eliminating the need for large blades and tall towers, which require hundreds of tons of steel and cement. These massive crafts are deceptively light, weighing in at only 100 pounds, and are kept aloft by a complex computer system that adjusts the wings and other lift-generating surfaces to compensate for unexpected wind shifts or strong gusts.

We're always excited to see environmentally friendly energy sources make moves to become more cost efficient, but we're going to remain skeptical until we see the system in real-world use. We've heard about numerous systems -- from solar panels to wave generators -- that were supposed to eliminate the price gap with coal power plants, but none have really panned out yet. So "is the coal killer flying thousands of feet up in the sky" as Discover put it? Maybe, but we're keeping our excitement grounded for the time being.

Tags: design, Energy, green, joby energy, JobyEnergy, top, wind power, wind turbine, WindPower, WindTurbine