[ ] Ben Glass, 9/11/2012 From Prototype to Commercialization
At the other end of the spectrum is the "shrouded turbine" from AltAeros Energies, a company formed last December by MIT and Harvard students. It looks like an inflatable donut with a propeller in the middle. The shape of the device forces air through the opening and into the turbine; a similar turbo effect is being harnessed by the ground-based turbine from FloDesign, another company with MIT roots. It stays aloft because it's filled with helium. The lighter-than-air design means that turbines will cost 25 percent less than standard offshore turbines, according to co-founder Ben Glass.
[ ] Application for patent?
Spelling challenge on Internet: Alteros, Altaeros,
To: Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
From: Adam Rein, Chief Financial Officer, Altaeros Energies, Inc.
Re: Response to Request for Information in Notification for Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES), Docket Number 2011-1279
Date: Feb. 4, 2012
Altaeros Energies is a small business founded by MIT and Harvard alumni in 2010 to develop a commercially-viable AWES product. Since its formation, Altaeros Energies has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the California Energy Commission, and the Maine Technology Institute to support the research and development of its technology. This response to FAA Docket Number 2011-1279 was formulated under the guidance of Peter Steenland, a member of the Altaeros Energies Board of Advisors, who previously represented the FAA in environmental disputes involving airspace improvements as the Chief of the Appellate Section in the Environment & Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Altaeros Energies would like to express its appreciation for the Federal Aviation Administration’s initiative in developing suitable regulation of the use of national air space for Airborne Wind Energy Systems. As an independent company and as a member of the AWES community, we look forward to contributing to this effort to expand low cost renewable energy generation in the United States.
FAA INFORMATION REQUEST
General information on a developer’s specific AWES design concept and plans for operation.
Altaeros Energies is developing a unique AWES design referred to herein as an Aerostat-Mounted Wind Turbine (AMWT). The AMWT is functionally similar in technology and operation to other lighter-than-air aerostats and moored balloons.
The AMWT consists of an annular-shaped inflatable envelope ("shell") filled with helium, a ground station that contains a docking platform and winches, and multiple tethers made of synthetic rope that connect the shell to the ground station. Inside the inflatable shell is mounted a payload of one or more lightweight horizontal-axis wind turbines, including rotor and nacelle.
The inflatable shell is roughly shaped like a hollow cylinder, forming a duct around the turbine to accelerate airflow through the rotor. The shell is pressurized similarly to other aerostats to be effectively rigid. In addition to providing constant net buoyant lift, the shell provides aerodynamic lift to stabilize the system in varied wind conditions. Like many aerostats, the AMWT employs fins to further increase stability.
The tethers provide three functions: redundant attachment to the ground station, active control of the aerostat’s altitude and attitude, and communication and electrical power transfer between the turbine and ground station. Each tether is permanently spooled on its own winch, and the winches are located on the ground station, which rotates to track the wind. During times of
unfavorable weather conditions or maintenance, the aerostat is winched in and docks to the ground station. A critical component of the AMWT is its automated controller, which performs all of these tasks autonomously while communicating the system status to a remote user.
Altaeros has already tested two prototypes of the AMWT at altitudes below 200 feet. The largest prototype was sized roughly 35 feet long and 35 feet across. The target power output of the first commercial AMWT product is roughly 100 kilowatts, and the corresponding dimensions of the aerostat are approximately 60 feet in diameter by 60 feet long.
The AMWT tether length is determined by operational altitude, which ranges from zero to 2,000 feet. Like all aerostats, the AMWT is pushed back by the wind to operate in a swept area around its ground station. Since the AMWT is designed to generate substantial aerodynamic lift, this "blow down" effect is smaller for the AMWT than for traditional aerostats. The operational area required by the AMWT is roughly a 1,000 foot radius circle centered on the ground station. Altaeros supports the development of future regulation that allows testing and operation up to 2,000 feet altitude to demonstrate the ability to harness more powerful winds. In addition, while early prototype tests will be conducted in daylight for safety, Altaeros supports future regulation to allow testing in both day and night conditions over an extended period. Nighttime testing and operation is critical to demonstrating the extended reliability of a product, and nighttime winds are typically stronger and more consistent than daytime winds.
Altaeros is exploring the deployment of individual 100 kilowatt AMWT units at a variety of off-grid and remote land sites. Initial AMWTs will be deployed in single units.
In addition, Altaeros has long-term plans to design larger megawatt-scale systems to be deployed in large-scale farms in deep water offshore sites. The target spacing for future multiple units is one unit every five rotor diameters. This spacing was determined by adapting accepted practices in the wind turbine and aerostat sectors with the unique properties of the AMWT. AMWT spacing can be roughly twice as dense as typical tower-mounted turbines because the aerodynamic shell results in a smaller wake behind the turbine payload.
Marking and lighting.
Functionally, the AMWT is a large, static or slow-moving object plainly visible in daylight similar to any large aerostat or moored balloon. Altaeros will comply with existing FAA regulation on marking and lighting, and will use brightly colored tethers. The AMWT can be lit by one of three methods: (i) a high intensity blinking light on top of the aerostat, appearing to air traffic similar to a radio tower with the tethers resembling unlit guy wires, (ii) glow-lighting, or illumination of the entire helium-filled envelope from the inside to increase visibility in all directions, or (iii) one or more spotlights aimed automatically at the AMWT from the ground.
Tether marking and lighting requirements will be challenging to implement cost effectively because the full length of the tether is subject to spooling on the winches during operation and has limited weight capacity. Altaeros supports regulation that allows lighting of the aerostat and not the tether, whcih will be sufficient to provide for proper air safety, as the tethers operate functionally similar to unlit radio tower guy wires that are familiar to pilots. Altaeros supports
the assistance of the Administration in approving testing and deployment in geographical areas with minimal airspace usage that would allow safe deployment of AWES without tether lighting.
Safety to other airspace users and persons and property on the ground.
Safety is a primary concern for Altaeros, and the AMWT relies on established aerostat practices to reduce risks. The AMWT is equipped with a helium valve that lowers the aerostat quickly and safely by automatically venting helium during an emergency or tether failure. This emergency vent fulfills the safety requirement as described in FAA regulation 14 CFR 101. Multiple visible, redundant tethers further minimize the risk of the aerostat disconnecting from the ground station.
Commercial installations will be permanent and stationary, using anchors to attached the ground station into the ground. However, the AMWT ground station is also towable, offering the potential to be relocated more easily than tower-mounted turbines. This provides flexibility in minimizing impacts on airspace, communities, and the environment by relocating an AMWT when a problem is identified after installation.
All of the distinguishing features of the AMWT already exist in other aerostats that operate today under 14 CFR 101. These include a uniquely shaped helium envelope, a conductive tether, a payload of rotating machinery, an airborne generator, and emergency helium ventilation. For example, existing commercial aerostats feature onboard diesel generators used to power rotating radar payloads, and often send electricity up the tether to power electrical payload systems. The AMWT concept is inherently safer than conventional aerostats in its use of multiple tethers, automated docking, and increased aerodynamic lift for greater stability in strong winds. Altaeros recommends that the Administration consider classifying a subset of AWES systems under 14 CFR 101 if they are functionally similar to other moored balloons classified under that regulation.
Minimized impacts to NAS facilities.
The AMWT is a slow moving and stable airborne platform with a fabric envelope, and will have a similar impact on NAS facilities as other aerostats. The unique feature of the AMWT is its spinning rotor, which will generate some radar signature. However, since the AMWT rotor size is significantly smaller than a conventional tower-mounted rotor of similar power capacity, its radar signature will also be smaller. The AMWT uses minimal or no airborne radio communication by embedding wired communication capability into the tether system.
The Altaeros Aerostat-Mounted Wind Turbine (AMWT) combines established aerostat and horizontal-axis wind turbine technology and practices. Altaeros plans to deploy AMWTs in remote and off-grid areas where the AMWT will not be a hazard to aviation when deployed below 2,000 feet. Altaeros welcomes the Administration’s aid in qualifying such sites in advance for testing and deployment.
Altaeros can comply with existing marking and lighting regulation, but hopes that tether marking and lighting requirements can be adapted to meet the specific requirements of AWES systems. Altaeros looks forward to working with the Administration in identifying the most suitable means for ensuring conspicuity to air traffic.
Altaeros plans to operate at altitudes up to 2,000 feet and will soon seek to test its systems overnight to demonstrate long-term reliability. Altaeros sees deployment of AMWTs in large farms as an eventual goal at deep water offshore sites.
PRLog (Press Release) - Mar
27, 2012 -
Altaeros Energies recently completed testing of a 35-foot scale prototype of the Altaeros Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone, Maine. The prototype, fabricated in partnership with Doyle Sailmakers of Salem, Massachusetts, achieved several key milestones. The AWT climbed up 350 feet high, produced power at altitude, and landed in an automated cycle. In addition, the prototype lifted the top-selling Southwest Skystream turbine to produce over twice the power at high altitude than generated at conventional tower height. The turbine was successfully transported and deployed into the air from a towable docking trailer.
Altaeros is developing its first product to reduce energy costs by up to 65 percent by harnessing the stronger winds found over 1,000 feet high and reducing installation time from weeks to days. In addition, it is designed to have virtually no environmental or noise impact and to require minimal maintenance. The Altaeros AWT will displace expensive fuel used to power diesel generators at remote industrial, military, and village sites. In the long term, Altaeros plans to scale up the technology to reduce costs in the offshore wind market.
“For decades, wind turbines have required cranes and huge towers to lift a few hundred feet off the ground where winds can be slow and gusty,” explained Ben Glass, the inventor of the AWT and Altaeros Chief Executive Officer. “We are excited to demonstrate that modern inflatable materials can lift wind turbines into more powerful winds almost everywhere—with a platform that is cost competitive and easy to setup from a shipping container.”
The AWT uses a helium-filled, inflatable shell to ascend to higher altitudes where winds are more consistent and over five times stronger than those reached by traditional tower-mounted turbines. Strong tethers hold the AWT steady and send electricity down to the ground.
The lifting technology is adapted from aerostats, industrial cousins of passenger blimps that for decades have lifted heavy communications and radar equipment into the air for long periods of time. Aerostats are rated to survive hurricane-level winds and have safety features that ensure a slow descent to the ground.
The emerging airborne or “high altitude” wind sector was recently featured on the cover of the March 2011 issue of Popular Mechanics. In December 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released draft guidelines allowing the new class of airborne wind systems to be sited under existing regulation.
Altaeros Energies is currently seeking partners to join its effort to launch the first commercially-
============ The news release was noted in AWES5899 for discussion.
on March 22, 2013
ROBUST AIRBORNE WIND TURBINE
GLASS, B. W.
ALTAEROS ENERGIES, INC.
42 Charles St
Non Technical Summary
Wind turbines have reshaped rural America by boosting incomes, creating jobs, and harnessing local energy sources. However, conventional tower-mounted wind turbines have three main problems that limit their potential: (1) only about 12 percent of communities have strong enough ground winds to make projects economical; (2) installations are too expensive, requiring a crane and concrete foundation; (3) many communities oppose wind, citing noise or avian impact. This project will develop a breakthrough Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) to expand the potential low cost wind energy in rural communities. The AWT uses a helium-filled inflatable shell to lift a lightweight turbine 50 to 200 stories high, where winds are up to five times stronger than those reached by a tower. A conductive tether holds the AWT steady and sends power to the ground. The lifting technology is adapted from aerostats: tethered blimps that have been used for decades to reliably lift telecom and surveillance equipment into the air for months at a time. The AWT can expand low cost wind power to hundreds or thousands of new rural communities by tapping stronger high altitude winds, reducing installation time, and lowering community impact. The key research objective of this project is to develop and test a fully-functional AWT prototype that demonstrates its potential for commercial deployment. There are three main technical objectives: (i) design and fabricate a rotor and drive train that integrate composite materials and compact design to significantly lower weight relative to leading tower-mounted turbines, (ii) demonstrate extended, autonomous operations of the AWT prototype in real-world environmental conditions, and (iii) demonstrate a communications and controls systems that allows for remote monitoring and control of the AWT prototype. Following on the Phase I feasibility analysis, Phase II will include a requirements definition, the design and fabrication of a custom lightweight turbine, development of the controls and communications infrastructure for remote operation of the AWT, assembly of a sub-scale inflatable shell, and extended duration autonomous testing in real world conditions. Altaeros anticipates that this technology will demonstrate reliable, high capacity power production beyond the current technology of tower-mounted turbines. The main commercial opportunity is to develop a mid-sized AWT that can expand economical wind power to regions with weak ground-level winds. In addition, the AWT can displace expensive diesel fuel used in off-grid generators used at a variety of sites including remote industrial, island and arctic communities, emergency power, and military bases. In the long term, the AWT will be scaled up to provide a solution to harnesses vast offshore wind resources located over deep water. This research supports USDA goals by enhancing rural prosperity by lowering consumer energy rates, increasing electric system reliability, mitigating climate change, decreasing regional pollution and water shortages, and providing new direct turbine lease payments to rural landowners.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
402 - Engineering Systems and Equipment; 608 - Community Resource Planning and Development;
Subject Of Investigation
6099 - People and communities, general/other; 0410 - Air;
Field Of Science
2020 - Engineering; 3080 - Sociology;
Goals / Objectives
This USDA Phase II SBIR project will result in significant development of the Altaeros Energies airborne wind turbine (AWT). While the technical feasibility of the AWT concept has been established during Phase I, additional research is needed to further improve the reliability and economic viability of the AWT to the point where it can be successfully commercialized. The overall objective of the Phase II work is to bring the technology readiness of the major sub-systems of the AWT forward to where they can be integrated, at the culmination of Phase II, into a complete demonstration prototype representative of a commercial product. There are three main technical objectives and outputs for Phase II: 1) Achieve a significant reduction in the weight of the wind turbine components, including composite rotor and nacelle frame, compared with leading tower-mounted wind turbines of equivalent power. The project will lead to the fabrication and testing of a prototype wind turbine for the AWT that demonstrates the ultra-lightweight design. 2) Demonstrate extended, remote operation of the inflatable shell lifting platform in real world conditions. A remote communications and cnotrol system will be developed to autonomously control a prototype inflatable shell lifting platform, in order to demonstrate the key autonomous functionality of the AWT. 3) Integrate the major sub-systems into a complete AWT demonstration prototype that achieves the key features of power production and autonomous operations. The project will culminate in the assembly and subsequent testing of a fully functional demonstration AWT.
The Phase II project is divided into eight sequential sub-phases, which will occur over a period of 104 weeks. The project will begin with a detailed study of product requirements in sub-phase 1, based on review of rural customer's needs and considering environmental and avian impact of the AWT. The product requirements will flow through to the parallel development of each of the major sub-systems in the remaining sub-phases. The design team, which includes the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, will utilize several strategies to reduce the weight of the rotor and drive train components, including a) reducing component count (through elimination of the gearbox, yaw system,etc.), b) utilizing a compact load path to minimize structural material volume, c) reducing the torque and load in the drive train and d) utilizing high strength- and stiffness-to-weight composite materials. A finite element model of the structure will be built and analyzed to refine the design before the prototype system is fabricated. Once fabricated, the turbine will be assembled and tested in a controlled environment, in order to measure the torque-speed curve, before it is integrated into the inflatable helium shell lifting platform. A remote communications and control architecture will be designed and evaluated in a simulated environment, including hardware-in-the-loop testing. This will allow the development of a reliable system for autonomously and remotely operating the AWT to occur in parallel with the development of the physical plant. The control and communication hardware will be integrated into the prototype inflatable shell once it is fabricated by leading softgoods design company, ILC Dover. The inflatable shell lifting platform will be tested in real world conditions at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone, ME, in order to evaluate it's performance. The dynamic motion of the shell during flight will be measured to evaluate flight characteristics. Allowable test conditions will be progressively increased to include ever more challenging environments. Once the autonomous functionality of the lifting platform is demonstrated, the turbine will be integrated and the system will be readied for fully functional tests. Determination of the success of the project will be based on whether the specific, quantitative technical objectives are successfully met.
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