High-Flying Kites Bring Wind Power To New Level
"Warning: Energy Kites Ahead" might read the electronic transmissions to pilots... that is if some of the wind energy producers have their way. They're putting their "kites" at 30,000 feet or so to harness more wind energy. What could that mean for you? Oh, just reducing your energy bills from 11 cents per kilowatt hour to 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour. Did they just win your support?
We hear about alternative energy sources being more expensive to produce and, therefore, more expensive to the consumer, but there's considerable information coming out that suggests ways for so-called alternative energies to become mainstream energies. For example, the idea that instead of erecting wind turbines at crow-flight level, we send kite turbines up 30,000 feet to airplane-flight level, where the jet streams flow 10 times faster than winds on the ground.
In fact, at 32,000 feet above ground, winds have the highest wind power density, perfect for harnessing and sending down to energy grids. That information was published last month in the journal Energies, by Stanford University professors and climate scientists, Cristina Archer and Ken Caldeira. They created the first global survey of high altitude wind energy based on 27 years of data they compiled from the National Center for Environmental Prediction and the Eurpean Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.
What Archer and Caldeira found was that the highest wind densities are over Japan, eastern China, the east coast of the U.S., southern Australia and northeastern Africa. Among the five largest cities -- Tokyo, New York, São Paulo, Seoul and Mexico City -- Tokyo, Seoul and New York have the highest high-altitude wind power.
Caldeira extrapolated from the data collected that if we "tapped into just one percent of the power from high-altitude winds, it would be enough to continuously power all of civilization."
But for this to be achieved, we would have to build a tremendous power grid so that the energy could be transported from where winds are heavy to where they are not. Such a grid could also overcome the problem of inconsistency of wind power... "Winds are always blowing somewhere," Caldeira explained.
Would another hurdle be air traffic. Companies that are already experimenting with jet stream energy kites, like Sky WindPower and Kite Gen, say no. Air traffic could just be redirected around the kites the way it is over nuclear power plants and refineries.
This exploration could mean that our energy bills are cut by two-thirds very soon in the future! But just how many players will have to get paid first?