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Airborne wind energy

April 10, 2014--Wind turbines hovering high in the air and tethered to the ground, like kites, have the potential to generate huge amounts of electricity, based on a recent wind availability study led by the University of Delaware.

Researchers pinpointed tracts of the atmosphere ideal for locating airborne wind energy (AWE) devices, which convert kinetic energy from wind into electricity. Findings published in the April issue of Renewable Energy show that there are enough areas usable by airborne turbines to produce several terawatts of electric power annually — more than enough needed to meet worldwide demands.

“These areas, which we call ‘wind speed maxima,’ form much more often and in more regions than we thought,” said study lead author Cristina Archer, associate professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “That was a surprise.”

If airborne wind turbines sound like a high-flying idea, they’re not. More than 20 companies are developing various versions of the technology, with over 100 related patents filed in the United States alone.