High altitude wind energy, if developed and executed effectively, has the potential to replace a percentage of the power generated from oil and traditional wind turbines.
Conventional wind turbines are located at heights ranging from 330 to 650 feet meters; however, wind flow is more consistent and quicker at altitudes above 1,640 feet. Therefore, winds at this altitude could act as a reliable source of energy that can be harnessed using kites, buoyant turbines and sails.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that the focus of ongoing research programs is twofold: tapping kinetic energy from high winds and enhancing generation techniques. Ground-based and airborne generators are the prototypes currently used in pilot projects.
"Several power firms are employing the yo yo concept of energy production, wherein kite- or balloon-mounted generators harness wind power mid-air, and then transmit it to the ground station," said TechVision Research Analyst Guhan Sriram R V. "A few have adopted power train-based methods in which the kite structure draws a powertrain across a circular track to generate power."
While the power generation procedures are sound, the nascent industry is still struggling to find ways to quantify and substantiate results to attract further investments. Actual outcomes in terms of power generation, market size and disruption potential remain unclear.
Publicizing results from pilot projects and demonstrations could help companies evaluate the system performance against the promises made. In a field that is still in the research and demonstration stages and where most companies employ similar designs, this open approach will encourage innovations.
Funds from the governments of the United States, Italy, Germany and Switzerland are already aiding the development of new technologies. The involvement of premier research institutes such as TU Delft in Germany and EMPA in Switzerland will also be a game-changer in this space.
Apart from governments, the high altitude wind power market has drawn big investors such as Google and Mitsubishi. Prominent participants in the conventional wind turbines market too are showing interest in this area.
"If the performance of pilot projects in high altitude wind power systems validate the theoretical numbers provided by researchers, the industry will deploy commercial units in or post 2017," observed Sriram. "Subsequently, the technology will account for a significant share of the energy market post 2021."