A California energy company is working to develop an airborne system of wind turbines that its developer believes could be superior to any of the current ground-based systems.
The system essentially consists of a giant kite that looks like a small airplane. It employs sensors to determine the optimal location for accessing the wind and transmits the power it generates along the same cable that tethers it to the ground.
Corwin Hardham, the CEO of Makani Power, told Reuters, “We can produce power at a much lower cost than conventional wind turbines … and, more importantly, we’re able to access winds at higher altitudes that are virtually untouched at this point.”
Hardham has a background in developing equipment for windsurfing and kite-boarding, and he says he thought of the idea for mounting wind turbines on a giant kite while kite surfing San Francisco Bay.
He believes his system will eventually be able to produce electricity at half the cost of current wind turbines, making it competitve with even the cheapest current sources.
Makani Power was founded in 2006 and has received extensive funding from Google and the Department of Energy. Its current prototype model is still small, but Hardham believes that within ten years his wings will be powering millions of homes.
This video is from Reuters, uploaded February 19, 2012.