Wind farms already provide power in many locations across the United States, but most of these turbines are attached to ground based structures. Stronger winds high above the earth have the potential to provide much more energy for a wind turbine to capture. The main problem is getting a wind turbine off the ground and keeping it in the air without using too much additional power.
Kites are one way to get the wind turbines up in the air. The wind turbines are only useful when the wind is blowing strongly, which means that there will also be enough wind to keep a kite aloft. According to Unity College, a wind turbine attached to a kite can operate at five times the maximum altitude of a ground based turbine, which provides twice as much power to the power plant on the ground.
Another method of getting the wind turbine in the air without using up additional power is attaching it to a blimp. The blimp is filled with helium, so it is lighter than air and does not need to have the wind blowing to stay up in the sky. Another advantage of a blimp is that it can hold a heavier turbine than a kite can.
There are several reasons why an airborne wind turbine is more effective than a ground based turbine. The wind flow on the ground is not consistent, and wind often comes in from a direction that does not allow a fixed turbine to easily capture it. According to Worchester Polytechnic Institute, at higher altitudes, the wind blows in the same direction for long periods of time, and it keeps blowing at a high speed. A mobile platform, such as a kite or a blimp, can also change its orientation in the air so that it can collect the maximum amount of wind energy. It is possible to use computer software to automatically launch or control the kite or blimp as well.
Another major advantage of an airborne turbine is its reduced cost. A ground based turbine may be several hundred feet tall. This means that the wind farm owner must build a support structure out of metal to prop up each turbine. The support structure does not produce any energy itself, but it does require a lot of energy to mine the metal and build the structure. A blimp or a kite is made out of thin cloth, so the main cost of the project is the turbine itself. Airborne turbines can produce much more power than ground based turbines with the same amount of cash investment.