Altaeros Energies are preparing to deploy a Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) in Fairbanks Alaska. The BAT consists of a tethered helium filled dirigible pipe structure with an axially mounted 30 kW turbine. The plan is to allow the BAT to take advantage of higher wind speeds found at an altitude of 1000 feet and above. The designers of BAT say that it can survive 100+ mph winds but if things get too violent it autonomously winches itself down to the base station and waits out the storm.
The system has a number of advantages over traditional ground-based turbines: it can be installed within 24 hr without the need to dig deep foundations or use specialized construction machinery and can serve as a platform for telecommunication equipment. The company anticipates that the technology can benefit remote and island communities, oil and gas mining, agriculture, telecommunication, disaster relief organizations and military bases. The cost per kW/h works out at $0.18 which is about half the cost of other off-grid solutions in Alaska. The $1.3 million BAT project is partially financed by the Alaska Energy Authority's Emerging Energy Technology Fund.
A single turbine will supply enough power for up to 12 homes. At its operational altitude it poses less a hazard to birdlife but it cannot be sited close to airfields. Altaeros Energies was founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.