Inflatable Wind Turbines

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Shubedobedubopbopbedo
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Inflatable Wind Turbines

Postby Shubedobedubopbopbedo » Sun Sep 09, 2007 8:27 pm

These guys have a cool idea.



Inflatable wind turbines. Use Helium for buoyancy, which is abundant and environmentally friendly (in fact it is completely inert). These turbines can reach wind at much higher altitudes than a windmill on the ground. No radioactivity. And some suggestions that transmission lines aren't even required, since it can be flown directly above the site where the electical power is used.

So, we can now collect energy from wind at any location, and any altitude!

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Postby Nanos » Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:17 pm


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Postby MSimon » Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:36 pm


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Postby Nanos » Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:02 pm


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Postby Shubedobedubopbopbedo » Mon Sep 10, 2007 12:52 am

According to page 19 of Dr. Bussard's Google speech (pdf paper) his full scale version would need up to $250 million funding for a 40 Megawatt p-B11 fusion powerplant. That's $6.25 per watt, about the same price as the inflatable wind turbine, maybe more. The main difference is that this same reactor requires 3-meter (10 feet) diameter coils and, scaled up from the WB-6 diagram below, a vacuum chamber roughly 18-meters (58 feet) wide on the inside, as a minimum to achieve net power. Obviously, inflatable wind turbines have no minimum size to generate net power. In fact, the Magenn website suggests that "backpack models" may be available within the next few years.

Image

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Postby JohnP » Mon Sep 10, 2007 2:28 am

helium, being small & monatomic, likes to leak. This thing would have to rise & sink for maintenance. Maybe not a bad idea for temporary power gen at remote locations, say, after an earthquake in Iran or Pakistan...

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Postby Shubedobedubopbopbedo » Mon Sep 10, 2007 3:00 am

The Magenn website says the helium would need to be topped up every 4 - 6 months. It could be reeled in, or a climber could deliver a compressed gas cylinder. Space elevator competitions are held every year where students design robotic climbers - an interesting fact. So it might be automated. I think it has more potential than just a temporary power generator. Maybe this image shows it better. It doesn't have to be in this configuration.

Image

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Postby JD » Mon Sep 10, 2007 3:21 am

I'm sure it works out well on paper. I doubt if execution would be practical. Sanity check here. Cellphone relays etc. would be great with tethered retrans facilities. I've yet to see or hear of one in actual use. Blimps for this purpose have been researched, not built. Apparently it's a nogo issue for reasons of practicality. The involved companies have deep pockets and are constantly looking for an edge yet they're still erecting steel towers every few miles. Now how much more practical would an 800 ft wide balloon ladder be?

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Postby Shubedobedubopbopbedo » Mon Sep 10, 2007 4:28 am

Cellular networks wouldn't benefit from a high altitude balloon relay because it would enlarge the coverage area too much. Cellular networks work because small area networks can re-use the same cell phone frequencies in multiple areas. The optimal size of the cellular area usually only requires a tower. On the scale required a tower is the most economical choice. Often existing structures are sufficient, like skyscrapers or condo high-rises.

Towers are also currently used for wind turbines. As a result of depending on low-altitude winds, alot of towers have to be built over a wide area. Wind farms face alot of opposition because of limited land area. NIMBYs claim diminished aesthetic appeal and lower property values because the best low-altitude winds are often on scenic landscapes. Offshore windfarms attempt to utilize higher wind speeds offshore, and avoid NIMBYs. However they need relatively shallow water to anchor the towers and shallow offshore sites are few. As a result offshore wind turbines interfere with shipping lanes and marine biology.

You can't build a wind turbine tower to reach winds above a few hundred feet. Currently wind farms are pushing that limit. To get to higher altitude winds might require tethered inflatable wind turbines. Taller turbines take up less land area. Because winds are more available at higher altitudes, turbines can be located in less scenic areas, thus avoiding complaints from the NIMBYs. If the tethered inflatable wind turbines are located offshore then deeper water sites can be used since no tower is required. Deeper water sites are more numerous, have less marine life, and can be located to avoid shipping lanes.

How'd I do?

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Postby MSimon » Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:22 am

The cost quoted by Dr. B. were for a prototype. Including engineering and mfg.

In production I'd estimate costs at between $.25 and $.50 a watt.

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Postby Shubedobedubopbopbedo » Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:59 am

A nuclear reactor isn't something that is mass produced on an assembly line. So I don't think you're going to get that 10-fold cost reduction that you want. Hundreds of fission reactors have been built and it didn't happen. You only get cost reduction when the same tools can be used over and over again, like in metal stamping or plastic molding. They make thousands of parts with the same mold or die before breaking even on the cost.

Wind turbines are more likely to enjoy those cost reductions because thousands of units will be needed, maybe hundreds of thousands if sales go global. To produce enough power with wind to rival a nuclear powerplant would require, say, a 10-mile-tall wind ladder with two hundred 5-MW inflatable units. Or, ten 1-mile-tall wind ladders with twenty 5-MW units each. All of those units would be identical, using the same processes to fabricate.

If you want to replace 30% of the world's energy consumption with wind ladders, I'm guessing you would need at least six thousand 5-MW inflatable units. Gives 30 gigawatts of wind power, per terawatt of total demand from all sources. You would need 300 wind ladders, each 1-mile tall. You could locate them all in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Wouldn't bother anyone. Anchoring them is easy: tie the tether to a big rock and drop it in the ocean. Piece of cake.

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Postby Nanos » Mon Sep 10, 2007 6:32 am

My guess is that the fission reactors produced todate have been too different to each other to look much towards mass produced reduced costs. Though I hear the latest designs to include much reduced component numbers, simplified design, better MTBF numbers,etc. so I see no reason that a mature design for fusion would not also see reduced costs. (Though I would agree that the first few generations might well not be as cheap as we would like.)

I am a fan of wind myself, though in the UK we have NIMBY issues effecting planning now, and I hear that most suitable sites have already been taken up.

I watch the magenn approach with interest, though I understand it could only ever supply a certain percentage of our electric requirements owing to the fact that we require a large base load capacity which does not vary its output radically.

I do recall seeing some pictuers of a prototype on top of a building though, but don't recall just where.

(Could a Persian windmill approach with one buried inside the top of a mountain work with the wind passing through the mountain one side to another, as an underground model would be easier to get planning permission for..)

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Postby rexxam62 » Mon Sep 10, 2007 12:12 pm

The reasons nuclear power is the only viable alternative to petroleum/wind/solar is because it is highly efficient, cheap and yes clean!!! Every country can also produce it so you dont have to go into other volatile countries and looking in their soil for it. Ofcourse the drawbacks are the weapons that can be made from it and the waste that fission produces. But still Nuclear is the best way to go.

European Union tried to do the 'alternative fuel thing' without nuclear power and how well did it go in reality? well we get our like 1% of our electricity from solar and wind etc. It simply does not work. France on the other hand found a neat way to get rid of alot of petroleum use by large scale support of Nuclear Fission. And it seems to work for them so why in gods name can it not work for Other European member states or USA?

If we are serious about Peak Oil, Global Warming and all other issues created by Globalisation and exxes petroleum consumption then Nuclear is the only real way to go and nuclear fusion would really help alot to if we can find a way to get it to work.

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Postby MSimon » Mon Sep 10, 2007 1:32 pm


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Postby jlumartinez » Mon Sep 10, 2007 1:50 pm



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