New ‘flying wind turbine’

A scientist has constructed a flying wind turbine which he hopes to send into the jet stream in fleets to create an airborne power station.

Professor Bryan Roberts, from the University of Western Sydney, has spent 20 years planning the concept of flying clusters of his ‘gyromill’, which looks like a cross between a balsa-wood helicopter and a kite, to generate power from 4.5 kilometres (14,700 feet) up in jet stream, BBC News Online has reported.

The craft uses its rotors to climb into the sky and then lies back in the wind as the rotors generate electricity, whilst tethered to the ground, and Roberts, who wants to build the first station near Woomera in South Australia, believes gyromills will prove to be a cheaper and more flexible method of electricity generation than traditional wind turbines.

By operating in the jet stream, the gyromills can escape the more turbulent winds found at ground level, which require a robust and expensive design, Roberts reportedly says. “The cable connecting it to the ground can draw energy from the ground and use that energy to power the machine as a helicopter,” Roberts reportedly told the BBC TV science programme Tomorrow’s World. “Then, when it gets to altitude, the gyromill’s motor can be switched to a generator and energy is pushed back down the cable to the ground.”

The professor says that prototypes have been flown successfully in wind tunnels and in the sky, and that a cluster would cover an area about 12 miles (20 kms) in diameter. He believes that “in the best winds in Australia, the gyromills can stay up six days out of seven.”

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