A California company is developing a flying matrix of wind turbines that will reach into the troposphere, as much as seven miles up. The multi-wing turbine, a concept from Joby Energy in Santa Cruz, says it can be scaled to carry many turbines. The initial concept shows a wing with 12 turbines. For takeoff, power from a ground source will drive the permanent magnet generators as motors, while rotors work as propellers. A computer will control the flight of the turbines by controlling the speed of the 12 rotors.
Once the turbines reach their operating altitude, they will fly in a circular path tethered by a ground cable. The motors will shift to generator mode and send power down the tether cable. If the turbines experience insufficient wind, they will be powered to land safely.
The company says the airborne wind turbine has four main components. The turbine blades will be a design that provides thrust for ascent and torque for power generation. The motor-generators will not need gearboxes. Third, the tether, the turbine’s mechanical connection to the ground, will transmit high-voltage power to a grid. Lastly, Joby says the airframe will easily transport and scale.
The company says the turbine will result in significant costs savings because it uses only 5% of the materials required for a conventional turbine. The initial concept is rated at 2 MW. A virtual lab on the company’s Web site lets viewers see an animated flight of the concept.
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