According to a recent survey conducted by the non-profit organization Near Zero, experts belief airborne wind energy could provide a substantial amount of energy if there were government support for its research and development. Here are the details.
* Airborne wind turbines float higher in the sky -- either through a rigid-wing system or a balloon system -- where wind currents tend to be stronger and more consistent than those near the Earth's surface, Near Zero stated.
* According to a report in Science Daily , a recent study conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, high-altitude windpower harnessed by airborne wind systems could extract more than 1,800 terawatts of kinetic energy, in comparison to 400 terawatts from near-earth turbines.
* Near Zero reported that its formal survey of 31 industry experts, as well as informal discussions, indicated that government funding of $10 million a year could shave years off the amount of time it takes for the industry to reach a significant scale and $100 million per year, the experts say, could bring the industry to the forefront even more quickly.
* Even with funding for research and development, the survey showed, airborne wind technology faces several barriers, including the reliability of technologies with systems that must remain aloft for long periods of time, in shifting winds and inclement weather.
* Regulations are also a barrier, according to Net Zero's survey of industry experts, making it difficult to test new prototypes today as well as potentially implement large-scale airborne wind energy operations in the future.
* Experts prefer the rigid-wing systems to the balloons and some have suggested that airborne wind systems be installed offshore in consideration of the large wind resource available there and in order to provide ease in resolving regulatory issues.
* According to one company manufacturing Airborne Wind Turbines, Makani Power , airborne wind turbines use 90 percent less material than conventional turbines and produce power at half the cost.
* Makani's system is a tethered, autonomous wing that flies at 1,000 feet above the earth and mimics the motion and speed of a conventional turbine.
* Joby Energy , another manufacturer of airborne wind turbines, states that the technology is not new. However, "recent advances in power electronics, sensors, and control systems now make our technology practical," the company reports.
* Joby's system is a multi-wing structure that supports an array of turbines connected to motor-generators. The generators produce thrust during takeoff and generate power during crosswind flight. During periods of low wind, the turbines are powered to land the system safely, Joby states.