Until recently, the idea of sourced energy from high altitude wind using tether and cable technology was not feasible. But the technologically-advanced materials and advanced computer knowledge that have emerged due to the interest in green technology, makes this now possible.

Just as people yearned to fly long before the Wright Brothers' first successful flight, as far back as 1833 John Adolphus Etzler envisioned a society that sourced energy from high altitude wind using a tether and cable technology. Today, the materials for this technology include a reinforced composite tether, aerodynamic surfaces on the wings, and advanced air turbines. Computers are used with sensors to adjust flight orientation and rotor speeds according to the environment.

Mouli Cohen at Joby Engery Inc. states their design, called the "multi-wing", is similar in design as the wings of one of the first airplanes made by the Wright Brothers. What is missing, because it is not needed, is the cockpit. According to Cohen, the parallel lines that make up its kite-like modular frame move in a circular pattern at about 400 to 600 meters above the ground where the wind is faster and more consistent. Turbines are positioned at each junction where the bars of the frame intersect. These turbines also serve to initially launch the device into the air.

The company's specifications for the "multi-wing" include a 2 MW (megawatts) airborne wind turbine produces that produces the energy equivalent of two 2 MW conventional turbines but requires approximately 1/20th of the materials. Furthermore, having five times the wind speed at the system's operating altitude, it can produce five times more electricity and has a capacity factor of 76% compared to the 42% of a conventional wind turbine. The "multi-wing" is not yet operating commercially, but there are plans to fly it outside of air traffic corridors and, eventually, offshore.

czp commented: well written piece about something interesting +0
About the Author
Member Avatar VanessaRyan Junior Poster in Training

I'm a freelance writer who is always curious about new technology and how I can use it in my work and other endeavors. I have to admit, though, I'm holding on to Windows XP, even though my PC is a newer model. I had it custom built to avoid Windows Vista. Now That Windows 7 is here I may get it, or switch to a Mac.


yeah i herd about something similar a while back (year ago?) it was this team of researchers in Sweden or something (that country that hangs out above europe, would have to be in gulf stream-air-) anyway their plan was flying kites (it actually made scence) no turbines or windmills on them just tethered to the turbine on the ground.

basically you'd let the gulf air stream pull these kites up to very high altitudes then let them glide back down like an airplane coming in to land, rinse and repeat. I remember thinking at the time 'one day some kid somewhere's going to ask their mum/dad what they do for a job and they'll get the coolest answer ever "well son i fly kites" how awesome is that job'

VanessaRyan 12

Right! Maybe using the simplest technology is what gets the job done. It will be interesting to see if they are able to get this one on the commercial market.

GrimJack 1,410

I wish you wouldn't shill for companies - have you ever researched any of the ideas you post?

I take it back - you are posting "News Stories of Possible Interest"

VanessaRyan 12

I am not shilling for this company. It is an invention that may be of interest people.

jonsca commented: Keep writing +0

Ancient Dragon 5,243

Looks like a giant kite :) I wonder how many birds will just fly right into it.

VanessaRyan 12

The main problem with wind energy is it's not great for the birds and I'm not sure if the technology has successfully addressed this issue.


popin, the kite generator you are talking about is Italian, not Swedish.
They are having trouble with regulatory controls to build their 3MW prototype but it looks like they have found a spot now. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitegen
It works by having a kite fly to high altitude while pulling an alternator, then diving to low altitude while the line is winched in. then repeat the cycle.