Airborne turbine proposal lifts off

Plans for a "hovering" wind turbine which would tap wind resources at higher altitudes have been awarded a government subsidy under the Economy, Ecology and Technology (EET) program. Comprising a lightweight wind turbine mounted inside a tubular helium filled balloon tethered to the ground by a reinforced-fibre strengthened high voltage cable, the "high altitude wind turbine" or "hover turbine" was first proposed by Dutch engineer Anderies van Meldegem in 1996, and dubbed the WIHL. Subsequently the project was taken up for further research by the Technical University in Delft, (Windpower Monthly, August 1997). The WIHL group has now been named as one of 19 recipients of a NLG 47 million award. The EET subsidy aims to reward innovative projects which help resolve the tension between economic growth and environmental damage but are thought to be too innovative to attract private investors. The WIHL group includes specialists from TU Delft and certification agency KEMA; energy conversion experts from the Groningen-based RIES consultancy, and Crycle Cryogenic; and fabric manufacturer BW Industrial Projects. In return for their one year government subsidy, the group must demonstrate "applicable WIHL concepts with special consideration of their economic feasibility" . Apart from increased output, a wind turbine suspended 100-250 metres above the ground would avoid the complaints of "horizon pollution" facing conventional wind farm developers in the Netherlands, Van Meldegem believes. The new technology would also be ideal offshore as it could be tethered to a simple buoy.

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