A system study is being conducted by NASA to better understand the potential of airborne wind turbines to meet future U.S. energy needs. These airborne flight vehicles are tethered to the ground and capable of extracting energy at altitudes where wind speeds are higher and more consistent. Even at altitudes as low as 2000 ft, which could be accommodated through FAA Part 77 Ground Obstruction regulations, wind speeds are more than twice that of ground-based wind turbine systems, with the potential for 8x higher power extraction and capacity factors that are 2x greater. Higher altitudes provide even more opportunity for increased power density and wind consistency.
Many small companies are currently pioneering advanced concepts to take advantage of this potential, however, significant technical, regulatory, and perception barriers exist to impede their progress. These potential barriers include airspace access, operational safety, environmental impact, concept of operation viability, economic viability, and energy production scaling potential. Up to this point, no government research investment has been made into this emerging technology research. The objective of this system study is to assemble a complete picture of these systems to help establish a foundation for this future industry, and support the wide variety of concept approaches.
Development of an open database of resources
Requirements, desirements, and metrics to guide the development of concepts
Decomposition of the wide variety of concept approaches
Across the board first principles analysis to showcase the feasible benefit frontier
Understanding the gaps that currently exist, and a mapping of NASA technology expertise that can address these gaps.
Point of Contact
Kevin R. Antcliff