Oh yeah Dmitri and I were hangin' out
and he is a good guy. No foreign accent or anything! Not that foreign
accents are bad per se, unless the person with the strong accent is
making absolutely no sense, in which case it is beyond annoying. But I
OK now I'm gonna play devil's advocate (again) here for a minute and
point out an aspect of the current state of this art, as reflected in
the recent conference:
A half-full glass may also be described as half-empty, and this analogy
is often used to illustrate how the same situation can look completely
different (encouraging or discouraging) depending on our attitude. Is
the glass "half-full" or "half-empty"? Or is it dry?
I just have to point out a couple of things:
1) In an art where NO federal dollars are going to come and find us
innovators, and where we can make more progress on a shoestring in less
time than it will take to abandon all progress while generating the
mountain of paperwork required to even be CONSIDERED (most likely
turned down) for funding, its become apparent that an innovator's time
is best spent innovating rather then trying to convince people on
paper. This is where I've noticed consistently "the only thing slowing
me down are the "people who are going to help"", and that includes
people putting on conferences, in the sense that all progress must be
abandoned for "just one more week" which is how much time it takes to
prepare for, attend, travel etc.
That was one reason I did not bring a demo this year - stop development
to show the same system again - besides the fact that, as Dave S.
points out, maybe demos are not wanted when the billionaire-funded
teams can't seem to outperform the garage-builders. (Wright Bros. vs
You will note that this year there was no attempt or request for demos of any kind and no place to fly one. Coincidence?
Just as religious cults prefer buildings without windows for full
indoctrination without that pesky light-of-day ruining the ambience
(shattering the lies), the all-talk format decrys the presence of
reality in its midst.
2)We COULD say that what we're seeing is very promising - systems are
seen flying and producing occasional power. However, here's what's
There is NOTHING shown that makes reliable power, NOTHING that can run
continuously for even a few hours, let alone day after day. NO SYSTEM
demonstrated can produce a truly useful amount of power, FOR ANY
PURPOSE, No SYSTEM can produce steady-state power, NO system has any
customer that would want one, or get any use out of one, NO system has
even BEGUN to address issues like foul weather, icing, hail, longevity,
overspeed protection - and why would they? These systems are only flown
for brief periods during fair weather, mitigating the need to address
any of these realities.
All in all, I'd have to say, we're still at the stage of demonstrating failure more than success.
"This is how OUR TEAM can produce almost NO usable power and cannot
keep our system in the air more than a few minutes even using a human
"Oh really , well THIS is how WE make no usable power, and here is our system that nobody could, would, or should buy!"
"Well WE'VE demonstrated that we can USE more power than we make!"
"Aha, well you think THAT's bad, look at how OUR HYPOTHETICAL
billion-dollar system makes and a no power: All we've gotta do is build
a special ship, attach tons of generators, and an industrial-scale
electrolysis system, and tow it around with a kite, producing hydrogen,
compress and bottle that hydrogen, and deliver it to market, and when
the economics don't work out, take heart - we'll extract rare minerals
with the seawater - so you see we DO have everything worked out after
"Oh, well OUR system DOES stay in the air as long as there is calm
weather (?), but we don't WANT to show a video, since our system
actually has one little problem - it makes almost no power!"
Imagine a sales conference where people showed videos of how they ALMOST closed a deal.
How about a crane convention where people talked about their projects
to lift heavy objects, showing videos of how they were briefly able to
lift a light object for a few seconds before the crane tipped over or
How about a wind energy convention where people brought videos showing
how they got a rotor to make 1/2 of a revolution, then had to be
stopped, reversed, then restarted, and there was trouble keeping the
thing deployed correctly?
In short, at this stage, it's kind of a case of:
"This is how we failed"
"and THIS is how WE failed"
"Well WE'RE failing like thus-and-such"
"Oh you think THAT's great? We have a whole DIFFERENT way to fail - check THIS out!"
"Oh well forget YOU guys, WE have the MOST EXPENSIVE way to fail!"
"Well WE have the most ELEGANT way to fail"!
"Well WE'RE far more sophisticated - WE'RE doing computer simulations of failing systems!"
That is what is, to me, EXCRUCIATING. Sitting in a chair as though
bound and gagged - no way to make any progress at all, while listening
to others making no progress, relating the stories of how they can't
really get anything to work.
"THIS is how many people WE have on OUR team that can't make any reliable power!"
"Oh really? Well HERE'S how much money WE'RE spending to get
essentially no results! And boy do we have a hefty burn rate and some
"Ah your team cannot COMPARE to the amount of money WE'RE wasting to
get nothing done - we hired a whole schoolroom of students who are VERY
ENTHUSIASTIC (about their paychecks that is)."
And another thing I noticed:
A few people there who have NO logos, NO "corporate presence", just a
few extra bucks and a willingness to try, and THESE people are just as
far along as the names you all know, with their reeling winches etc.
Here's what I gotta say:
Take a regular wind turbine for generating electricity. Say 5 feet in
diameter. These were produced by the millions in the 1930's. There were
also selected MEGAWATT machines produced even back then. It was decades
of experience with these millions of small turbines, combined with the
added track record of the few large ones that had been built, that
allowed today's wind energy industry to go forward with (some limited)
Even then, the largest U.S. windfarm-scale turbine manufacturer,
Kenetech, finally went bankrupt from their turbines failing in strong
The realities of the requirement for steady-state operation, and an
economical structure that was simple enough to run unattanded for
months or years was seen early on. The requirement that the machines be
simple, meaning reliable, and able to automatically protect themselves
from overspeed was taken into account. The past 3000 years of wind
turbine design was recognized and taken into account - no drag-based
machines were part of the picture, no oscillating cycles, no attempts
to extract power 24/7/365 using wear-prone winches etc., just the
simple reality of how to make reliable, steady-state power from wind,
using the fewest moving parts possible, which is well-known in the
right circles. If all wear parts are hardened steel, and your system
has been perfected for years, you MIGHT stand a chance to not be
destroyed the first time it gets truly windy.
Anyway, that is what I want to say. It's hard to listen to takes of
failure masquerading as tales of success - from the glass standpoing,
if a full glass is reliable power 24/7/365, even the regular wind
energy industry is in a 1/3 full position: A capacity factor of 30% in
a windfarm location.
The AWE effort - and note I did not call it an "industry" - that would
be premature - (the "industry", as it stands, is holding conferences,
not generating power) this area of endeavor, takes great note of this
limited capacity factor of 30%, touting the promise of filling this
glass to perhaps 70%, since at higher altitudes, winds are more
However, the REALITY is that ALL losing wind energy systems talk about
the vastness of the resource, since it is only by focusing on the
RESOURCE rather than their SYSTEM that they have anything truly
promising to discuss, since the systems themselves are as yet UNABLE to
take advantage of the vastness of this resource.
Like ALL losing "revolutionary" turbine designs, the fact that the
status-quo does a FAR BETTER job of approaching a reasonable capacity
factor (glass 30% full) than the new "revolutionary, improved" design
is not the fun thing to talk about - it's more fun to talk as though
some sort of airborne system actually WORKED, continually repeating the
fact that there is a lot of wind up there.
I've found that turbines that work simply state how much power they
make at what average wind speed. They don't need to discuss the
vastness of the resource, which is already well-known.
So, if this is a new and growing field of endeavor - an area of active
research, a promising direction of exploration (not yet an "industry"),
then what I'd like to see is the first SUCCESS story. A pile of failure
stories is perhaps the best we can do so far, and obviously we don;t
want to stop trying becuase of no initial success, but overall at this
time I don't see any success in the sense of any useful turbine to run
anyone's house or even power a water well, radio repeater - nothing.
There is no successful product yet, nothing useful.
Which brings to mind the concept of Magenn. It seems that this
ubiquitous image of the rotating balloon has become almost synonymous
with AWE. Magenn was listed as a sponsor of the conference, with images
of their rotating balloon and logo prominently displayed.
Yet I do not remember them presenting anything. It seems to me that
they've been around long enough that if their machines were useful for
anything, someone would be using one by now, one would be flying
somewhere. If Magenn were making any kind of useful levels of power you
can be SURE they would be promoting videos of the power meters.
Instead we have the cycle of "press-release/silence", where promising
press releases are followed up by NO verification of true usefulness or
performance. So Magenn, you've been on the map for years now, we're
heard the claims, we've seen how much money you've spent - now please:
WHAT is the performance of your system? What's the matter? Cat got yer
I'd have to identify Magenn as a MATURE AWE technology - looks about
the same as it did years ago. magenn YOU started this conversation,
claiming a superior product. years have passed. Now please, for the
rest of the class, please tell us the answers that ANY wind turbine
customer wants to know:
How much does your system cost?
How much power does it make at what wind speed?
How does it handle extreme wind events?
This illustrates how illusionary / delusionary this field is:
NOBODY is held to ANY standard of success whatsoever.
ANYBODY can make ANY claims NO MATTER HOW ABSURD and are NEVER
CHALLENEGED and no matter HOW MANY YEARS go by, are NEVER asked for ANY
results AT ALL.
My gosh I gotta get back to work - sheesh!