I was reading a post on MarginalRevolution.com about wind energy which talked about how unappealing wind energy can be. Wind turbine installation faces serious regulatory and permitting obstacles by several parties, which make them difficult to build. For example, from the post:
“Bavaria decided back in 2014 that the distance between a wind turbine and the nearest housing must be 10 times the height of the mast, which, given the density of dwellings, makes it hard to find a spot anywhere.”
The U.S doesn’t face the same density issues as Europe, but Europe is still a very large area, and Germany is a regional driver of power innovation. In that same thread, I suggested jokingly that we should just suspend the turbines from clouds, and then no one would have to look at them and there would be no threat to birds. Evidently this is, as well as all other ideas, not new. There appear to be two major obstacles to aerial wind turbine power generation: ROI and aviation safety. Let’s take a look at flight safety:
I found an image online of global flight paths:
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this, and I don’t work in the energy sector, let alone wind energy, so I don’t hold myself out as an expert. I do, however, see many areas which are devoid of flight paths, particularly in the southern hemisphere. Perhaps the issue is how to operationalize these stations in remote areas and made them profitable, which ties into the other obstacle of ROI.
I learned from my brief look at wind energy that as you ascend above the ground, wind becomes more powerful, and more consistent. Ground level turbines are convenient to humans because they are relatively easier to build and maintain, but they are clearly unfavorable to many people. A better approach appears to be developing a more regulatory friendly, cheaper, and aviation safe alternative to ground based wind energy. Maybe we can develop a “hook” that will harness moisture and truly hang the turbines from clouds. Get at it environmental engineers, I’d love to be proved right.