No matter how tall a traditional wind turbine is built it can't reach the stronger, steadier winds that blow a quarter mile above the ground. That's why Makani Power traded the turbine's tower for a tether and created the Wing 7 aeronautic power plant.
The Wing 7 spans eight meters but weighs just 130 pounds thanks to its carbon fiber wing and rotor construction. The tether that keeps it attached to the base station also transmits electricity that the wing produces back to the ground. And in a 22 mph wind, it'll will generate 20 kW.
The Wing 7 launches vertically, drawing power from the tether to drive the rotors (which also act as propellers for thrust). Once it reaches a height of roughly 1500 feet, the wing will level out using its unique vertical tail wing and autonomously fly in swooping, crosswind circles while generating electricity. The rotors can also be used to slow the wing which reduces its altitude. To land, the wing transitions to back to vertical hovering before being gently winched back to the ground.
The Makani system actually behaves much like a conventional turbine, except that the wing itself functions like the turbine blade—albeit on a much larger path. This allows it to generate nearly double the energy of conventional turbines per unit of capacity. Makani hopes to boost the wing's power-generating by 2013 and have it to market by 2015.
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