High altitude wind could be major energy market player post 2021

The Makani Energy Kite. Source: Google. http://www.google.com/makani

January 26 (SeeNews) - High altitude wind energy could account for a significant share of the energy market post 2021, according to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan, unveiled today.

"If the performance of pilot projects in high altitude wind power systems validate the theoretical numbers provided by researchers, the industry will deploy commercial units in or post 2017," said research analyst Guhan Sriram. According to the analysis, the technology has the potential to replace a significant portion of the power generated from oil and traditional wind turbines.  

While conventional turbines are located at heights between 100 meters (328 ft) and 200 m, wind flow is more consistent and quicker at altitudes above 500 m. This is attracting both researchers and investors. The market has drawn companies such as Google and Mitsubishi, and premier research institutes from Germany and Switzerland. The governments of the US, Italy, Germany and Switzerland are already supporting the development of new technologies.

The nascent industry, however, is still struggling to find ways to quantify and substantiate results to attract additional investments. According to the consulting firm, actual outcomes in terms of power production, market size and disruption potential remain unclear.

Pilot projects currently use ground-based and airborne generator prototypes. Sriram explains that several power firms are employing a concept where kite- or balloon-mounted generators harness wind power mid-air and then send it to the ground station. A few use power train-based methods where the kite structure draws a powertrain across a circular track to generate power.

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Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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