delware environmental institute

The Weather Channel: Could flying wind turbines power the globe?

The Weather Channel: Could flying wind turbines power the globe?

If wind energy isn’t already alternative enough, researchers are now looking at an alternative to the alternative: wind turbines that float. The devices come in a few different models, some looking more like kites and others like small airplanes, but they’re all kept aloft by the wind while being held in place by a ground-based tether. Because wind speed generally increases farther away from the Earth’s surface, airborne devices could generate more power without needing to build increasingly taller turbines, which are expensive and resource-intensive.

But longer tethers mean more drag and less efficient energy production. That’s why Cristina Archer, a University of Delaware environmental engineer, decided to analyze more than 20 years’ worth of hourly wind-speed data, looking for areas known as low-level jets, where more powerful winds blow closer to Earth.