Scientists look high in the sky for power

The San Francisco Chronicle writes about tapping into the jet stream for future wind power. Researchers in California and around the world are looking into huge kite-like generators that would stay aloft between 6 and 9 miles above the ground. The jet stream typically blows from west to east in the northern hemisphere at speeds up to 310 mph, and its a constant force.

‘”My calculations show that if we could just tap into 1 percent of the energy in high-altitude winds, it would be enough to power all civilization. The whole planet!” said atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.

Research into high-altitude wind power machines began in the 1980s. Bryan Roberts of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, was an early pioneer. Working with a team of researchers, he has field-tested a small, two-rotor prototype device tethered a short distance above the ground, successfully generating the electricity from low-level winds and transmitting it to Earth.

Creating a much larger, commercially viable system envisioned by scientists would take millions of dollars of research. Scientists need to figure out the structural materials that could stand up to the jet stream’s buffeting winds and find a way to adjust the wind power generator’s position as the jet stream meanders back and forth across the sky.’

Head on over to the SFChronicle and check out the entire article here.

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