Cost and security of electricity generated by high altitude winds

22 May 2012

This paper describes a new form of automated, tethered, quad-rotor craft, which can operate gyroplane-style, while simultaneously generating electricity.

They can operate in the powerful, persistent and reliable winds over most of Australia at an altitude of 4 km. They are highly controllable and capable of being flown in arrays for the large-scale supply of power. The power produced has a base-load capability. A levelised cost of energy (LCOE) comparison with conventional systems, gives a LCOE of $24/MWh, post July 2012.
In Australia and elsewhere, the winds at altitude are about eighty times more powerful and three times more persistent than the winds available to ground-based wind turbines. Harvesting this energy aloft gives the lowest cost of electricity in Australia and it addresses people's concerns about the everincreasing price of electricity. The power availability can be considered as 'base-load' due to the persistence of these winds.
Electricity generation by this method needs to be advanced through the construction and demonstration of an automated, tethered, generating rotorcraft. The relevant research and development has been completed, and commercialisation awaits. A derivative form of rotorcraft can be used for surveillance duties, both for military and civilian use.  A derivative version of the technology can be used for military or civilian surveillance at any altitude; either ‘riding on the wind’, or operating as an elementary helicopter.

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