Developed by the start-up Altaeros Energies, the first wind turbine floating in the air has appeared in the form of a giant helium-inflated balloon fitted with a turbine, floating at an altitude between 300 and 600 metres. The circular envelope which provides the lift is 10 metres in diameter and was made with the same material used for airships and boat sails, a very high performance plastic. This enables it to capture stronger, and more regular, winds than a traditional wind turbine, and to produce twice as much energy as a result.
Christened the BAT (Buoyant Air Turbine), it is fitted with anemometers and is anchored to a ground station by three cables thanks to which it can automatically adjust its altitude and direction in order to catch the strongest possible winds. The electricity generated in this way (it has a 30 kilowatt capacity) is then transferred to the station through the cables, before being fed to the grid. This model, which is able to withstand winds of up to 160 km/h, seems to be suited for harsh environments. The BAT will soon be deployed in Alaska, near the isolated city of Fairbanks and "will generate enough energy to power over a dozen homes" according to the start-up
The investment required for transport and facilities should be less significant. In contrast to the large structures that form onshore wind farms, the floating turbines require less transport materials and will be much more discreet, isolated as they would be at an altitude of several hundred metres.
The technology aims to provide renewable energy in harsh environments or locations that are too isolated to be hooked up to a grid, replacing expensive and CO2-emitting diesel generators. The floating wind turbine could also be used in areas affected by natural disasters since it was designed to withstand the power of a hurricane.