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Harvesting Energy in the Sky

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the pie-in-the-sky dept.

Science 261

withoutfeathers writes "The Economist magazine has an article on Flying wind farms. Mind you, we're not talking about ordinary, terrestrial windmills here. We're talking about actual airborne — up to 10km in the sky — wind farms intended to harvest the immense supply of energy in the jet stream. On the surface, the idea seems a little eccentric but, in fact, San Diego (California, US) based Sky WindPower has, apparently, thought their concept through pretty thoroughly and believes they can not only make this work, but do so profitably. The article discusses several other ideas for high-flying wind farming including a Dutch proposal to use pairs of kites to drive a generator."

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Hmm (5, Funny)

Lithdren (605362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613089)

Hope they tell the FAA before they put one up...

Somehow, putting up tons of windfarm hardware in the jetstream, strikes me as a great way to disrupt airtravel.

Re:Hmm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613131)

Stop posting. Seriously, you're an idiot and a disgrace to Slashdot

Re:Hmm (5, Interesting)

Tatisimo (1061320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613199)

I do wonder: if one of those fell to the ground, what would happen? With the recent stories of space junk falling to earth, could we someday be troubled by power stations falling on us?

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613417)

...could we someday be troubled by power stations falling on us?

Hmmm nice hypothesis Mr. Little....

Re:Hmm (3, Insightful)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613751)

With the recent stories of space junk falling to earth, could we someday be troubled by power stations falling on us?
SOMEday?!? I'm troubled now.

Re:Hmm (5, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613269)

I think the neighbors would have a problem with the 10km-long orange extension cord hanging from the sky.

It's not just disruptive in the jet stream (4, Insightful)

BrewerDude (716509) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613541)

The cable that is tethering it to the ground will be a hazard to aviation and all altitudes below the generator. Not only would the cable be very hard to see, but, unlike power cables and guy wires for antennas, it would also be hard to chart, since I imagine that the generator will move around quite a bit as the jetstream fluctuates.

Re:It's not just disruptive in the jet stream (5, Insightful)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613977)

There already exist no-fly zones all over the place. I don't see why we couldn't just set up a perimeter around the cable as a no-fly zone and planes fly around it, like they would a military base, an erupting volcano, or other such places.

Re:It's not just disruptive in the jet stream (1)

deanpole (185240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614127)

> Not only would the cable be very hard to see...

On the ground have a spotlight that lights the cable. Of course the
cable will not be as straight as the beam, so the illuminated spot
would have to traverse. The cable itself could have some reflectors
to make this easier, such as like a mirror disco ball -- sometimes
the observer gets lucky to see a really bright light. Using
holographic material, the reflectors could be flush which
would be needed for winching the balloon/kite back down.

Interestingly, wristwatches use such a reflective material so
that the glare from the glass is not coincident with
the glare from the non-imaging holographic reflector
on the bottom of the LCD. It produces wonderful contrast
at the correct angle.

Re:It's not just disruptive in the jet stream (4, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614147)

That situation exists today in the form of tethered high-altitude balloons used for border surveillance...I believe there are 15 of them along the US/Mexican border. They have to be charted carefully, but so far the aviation community has dealt with them.

rj

Lightning dissipation (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614283)

Also the cables would probably become lighting conduits if they are insulators and lighting discharge if they are conductors. If we are constantly discharging the potential between the earth and the upper atmosphere I would expect this would have profound effects on the weather.

Re:Hmm (1)

njh (24312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614139)

But that's the whole point - by disrupting air travel they will get great reductions in GHG emissions! The wind turbine bit is just a cover story :)

no need (1)

web_wizard_888 (1017158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614251)

I think the amount of air displaced by Chuck Norris doing a roundhouse kick would be enough to generate enough power for the entire Earth!

Are they serious? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613093)

This is a terrible idea. Harnessing wind down by the ground is local, but sucking energy out of the jet stream will cause problems "down stream". Operate a sizable "facility", sit back, and watch the "unintended side effects" proliferate.

Granted, I didn't RTFA. :D

Re:Are they serious? (3, Insightful)

2short (466733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613327)

So don't RTFA (I haven't :) ), but make some estimate in your head of the total percent of the energy in the jet stream they could possibly harvest. I have some idea the scales involved and the efficiency of wind turbines, and in my wildest speculations I can't see how they are going to make even a tenth of a percent difference in the strenght of the stream. It's not going to be a problem.

Re:Are they serious? (5, Informative)

2short (466733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613361)

Update: Just for kicks, I Read The Fine Article. In it, it is estimated that 1% of the power in the jet stream would power the entirety of human civilization. Not that you'd ever get that much, but again, not a problem.

Re:Are they serious? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613753)

RTFA is read the fucking article, acually.

Re:Are they serious? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18614119)

No shit shirlock.

Re:Are they serious? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18614449)

Really?!? I had NO idea!

2Short, posting anonymously because you're an idiot.

Re:Are they serious? (5, Insightful)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613799)

This is a terrible idea. Harnessing wind down by the ground is local, but sucking energy out of the jet stream will cause problems "down stream". Operate a sizable "facility", sit back, and watch the "unintended side effects" proliferate.


You're right. We should stick to burning coal, firing gas, building dams, and fissioning radioactive materials. Those have all proven to have no unintended consequences.

Would this cause any problems with the jet stream? (4, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613095)

If we take the kinetic energy out of the wind and transform it into electrical energy, will this cause any problems? If we do so on a major scale?

Is it even possible for us to tap enough power from the jet stream (or other high altitude winds) to cause problems?

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (4, Funny)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613159)

But what of Global Calming?

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (2, Funny)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613213)

Well since Global Warming is just a matter of too much energy in the system, maybe Global Calming would mitigate some of the weather pattern effects. (yes I know you being humorous)

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613173)

This is all another conspiracy by big buisness to create global warming. Their plan is now to try to steal the energy of the spinning planet in order to create an day that lasts longer than 24 hours! /straps on tinfoil hat and holds on for the ride.

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (1)

Kazuma-san (775820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613517)

"Their plan is now to try to steal the energy of the spinning planet in order to create an day that lasts longer than 24 hours!" And thus Jenova could Finaly conquer the whole planet, if we do not stop them and blow up the Reactors er windfarms.

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613227)

The main effect will be that butterflies will flap their wings slightly differently.

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (4, Informative)

2short (466733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613249)

"Is it even possible for us to tap enough power from the jet stream (or other high altitude winds) to cause problems?"

No. The total power we could possibly harvest with systems like those in the article is not worth mentioning in the scale of the total energy in the jet stream. Windmills take a few percent of the energy of the wind that actually passes over them, wich would only be a tiny fraction of the wind in the jet stream.

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613765)

But fractions of percents are all we're discussing with regard to global warming, too...

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (3, Insightful)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613807)

I'd honestly be more concerned with global warming killing the jet stream than this. The jet stream is largely the result of low-altitude/surface-level thermal gradients (ie the equator to pole temperature difference). Given that most climate models predict the poles will warm significantly more than the equator, if they turn out to be correct I'd say that's far more troubling to the jet stream than a few big kites.

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (1)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614371)

I've been asking this question for years, never meeting with a satisfying response. There is no such thing as 'free' energy.

Another point, raised by Arthur C Clarke, is that the side effect of all this energy conversion will always be more heat.

Re:Would this cause any problems with the jet stre (3, Funny)

treeves (963993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614477)

Uh huh. Some guy named Gibbs had some. I learnt about it in college.

Look up in the sky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613107)

is it a bird, a plane, no its just a wind farm...

Much more realistic idea than kites. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613119)

The SHPEGS [shpegs.org] project is an initiative to design and build a system that uses a combination of direct and indirect solar collection to generate electricity and store thermal energy in an economical, environmentally friendly, scalable, reliable, efficient and location independent manner using common construction materials.

Be careful (5, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613133)

I once had a similar idea: to pull energy right out of the air. Here's what I would do: separate a sealed chamber into two subchambers with a little door between them that could be opened. Have some kind of monitor determine *just* the right time to open it so as to increase the pressure in one side. When the pressure difference is large enough? Have one side expand against the other, drawing out useful work. End result? Both chambers have the same pressure *which is less than atmosopheric*! So to recharge, I just open it up to the atmosphere, and start over again.

Go, me, right?

After a few days of this, I woke up to find a severed horse's head in my bed. A note attached to it said. "You're depressurizing the atmosphere. Stop."

That settled it for me :-/

Re:Be careful (1)

markana (152984) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613851)

Mr. Maxwell - is that you???

(and they're calling them "monitors" now?)

Re:Be careful (4, Funny)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614175)

We all have our own demons.

rj

alternative to altitude (3, Funny)

RM6f9 (825298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613141)

Gather 3 wives and their mothers in front of these devices: output to be rated at MW/cup of coffee.

No ordinary terrestrial windmills here. (3, Funny)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613147)

"The Economist magazine has an article on Flying wind farms. Mind you, we're not talking about ordinary, terrestrial windmills here.

You're kidding? Flying wind farms aren't ordinary, terrestrial windmills? You learn something new every day!

Re:No ordinary terrestrial windmills here. (2, Funny)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613221)

They could be hovering wind farms.

I just hope they don't get full of eels.

Re:No ordinary terrestrial windmills here. (4, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613423)

I will not buy this windfarm, it is scratched.

Well (2, Funny)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613171)

It will be really sad when this idea comes crashing down... ;-)

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

Mantis8 (876944) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613533)

What are chances that the geographical areas where these contraptions are installed get hit by bad weather (i.e. typhoons, tornados, hurricanes, hailstorms, lightning, etc)? That not only will destroy millions of dollars of power-generation equipment and disrupt power, but potentially kill people, animals, or damage crops, buildings, etc on the ground.

Assuming the power station comes down in any uncontrolled fashion, and from the heights they are talking about and the strong jet stream winds they are dealing with, the power generation station could potentially travel many miles before it hits ground, endangering a very very large area below. How would this affect the value of real estate in the same areas because of the risk? I guess the insurance industry might benefit from this if the odds are in their favor.

Global warming almost guarantees more severe storms, more often, making power generation of this sort even more risky.

Re:Well (2, Interesting)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613597)

Yeah, talk about Vaporware.

Great (2, Insightful)

demonbug (309515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613195)

Hey, lets put a bunch of aircraft up at 10km, with cables that tie them to the ground! Excellent idea! Why didn't anyone think of this before?

Oh, that's right - they did. They used them to prevent aircraft from flying over towns/cities/military targets (it sort of worked).

It also doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to stick a bunch of obstacles up in the jet stream. You know, where airliners tend to like to fly (at least when going west to east).

Oh, and doesn't the jet stream tend to be rather dynamic - as in, it's course often changes by hundreds or even thousands of miles?

Re:Great (4, Funny)

Migrant Programmer (19727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613543)

You know, where airliners tend to like to fly

Don't worry, they've planned for this. Air cowboys are ready to rassle up those wild airliners and keep them out of harm's way.

Re:Great (2)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613663)

But don't planes at that altitude stick to well-defined air corridors?

Re:Great (1)

rhyno46 (654622) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614087)

They used them to prevent aircraft from flying over towns/cities/military targets (it sort of worked).

I've never heard of this (maybe I have & I forgot). Do you have a reference?

In the Jet Stream... (4, Interesting)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613305)

You know what else tends to reside in the path of the jet stream? Storm systems.

I bet that these things would make excellent conductors for lightning. Take them down when storms approach and put them back up afterwards? Probably not feasible.

Then again, they would probably build up a heck of a static charge themselves just with the wind flowing over them.

Oh yeah, would ice build-up be a problem? Maybe not at the windmill itself, but on the tether, perhaps.

Seems to me there's a few (obvious) technical hurdles to address, first./p.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

Linux Ate My Dog! (224079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613387)

Any chance to actually use that lightning for energy as well?

Capturing Lightning/Static Electricity (2, Interesting)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613567)

Well, the technical hurdle is capturing the energy from a massive electrical discharge and then releasing it in a controlled form. You can't just send it through some super transformer to knock down the voltage because, even if you could, the voltage rise/fall time is so fast that the inductive impedance of the transformer would probably make it quite ineffective. Even if you could down convert the voltage of the lightning, you'd have difficulty building a device that could accept such a large inrush of current in such a short period of time. Direct application of the electrical energy is most likely out.

I would think that a solution for capturing this energy would reside in a less direct solution, such as dissipating the energy into a medium (i.e. specialized oil, or vaporization of a liquid) as heat, then using standard thermodynamic heat flow to mechanically spin a turbine or something. There's several forms of energy conversion in the whole process of something like that, but it would be done to better manage the storage and release of the captured energy.

Of course, the next problem is finding a relatively abundant source of atmospheric electrical discharge to make something like this economically feasible.

Harvest the lightning... (4, Funny)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613609)

All 1.21 Jiggawatts of it!

Re:In the Jet Stream... (4, Funny)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613721)

Yes, I believe a DeLorean connected to a large cable and going precisely 88 mph does the trick...

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613843)

YES! I have seen video demonstrating lightning as a power source for a time machine built out of a Delorian. Seemed to work perfectly. Especially if you know where lightning is going to strike.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614073)

Any chance to actually use that lightning for energy as well?

Worked for Doc Brown and Marty McFly!

Re:In the Jet Stream... (2, Interesting)

Clueless Moron (548336) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614109)

A typical lightning strike is around a thousand kWh. That'll keep a 100W light bulb lit for a few months, but given that your air turbine gizmo will likely only get a few strikes per month, it's hardly worth the effort to capture considering how much wind energy it'll be capturing during that time.

It's best to just treat the lightning a like a nuisance and try to dissipate it safely.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (5, Interesting)

2short (466733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613539)

The jet stream is instumental in pushing storm systems around, but is itself a fairly stable, continuous flow at a higher altitude than the storms.

The tethers will keep these continuously grounded, so any static is just some bonus power. The teathers will be great lightning rods, which will probably be more power at once than can be made usable, but it is entirely possible to design them so it's not destructive either.

Ice build up would have to be dealt with, but, hey, it's a power station, if nothing better, heat the cable.

There are definitely technical hurdles to overcome; this is at the conceptual daydreaming stage so far. But the obvious problems seem entirely doable to me.

I'd say the big issue is if you can get reliability good enough that maintenance costs don't kill your cost effectiveness.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (0, Troll)

rainwalker (174354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613783)

Seems to me there's a few (obvious) technical hurdles to address, first.

Wow, it's a good thing you read this summary on Slashdot. I'm positive the team of experts that has been researching this for years has never, ever considered your off-the-cuff objections! You better call that company and its investors, and tell them that their team of scientists is wrong.

Yes I'm flaming you, but this trend is annoying. Why do Slashdotters think that experts, who make a LIVING working in their field, have never considered your obvious objections?

Re:In the Jet Stream... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18614055)

Because a bunch of high school kids on slashdot can poke holes the size of planets in the "experts'" dreams. When you claim to be a tough guy "scientist" and a toddler kicks sand in your face and rips your heart out of your rib cage and shoves it down your throat, the slaps you with his pokemon slide-rule, you probably need to go back to the drawing board, or maybe take up writing fantasy novels.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614131)

Well, FWIW, I *DID* read the story. Guess what? There's no mention of any of these issues in it. Wouldn't it be appropriate to bring them up for discussion? The article reads pretty much like the typical Popular Science/Popular Mechanics hype, touting the "coolness factor" and pretty much glossing over some of the other hurdles that would make something like this feasible for mass implementation.

I'm not objecting that what this handful of people are proposing is "wrong." I'm just making light of some oversights that aren't mentioned *at all* in the article. I work with people that propose lots of things that aren't wrong, just that their ideas overlook some very important aspects that would be show-stoppers. In a few instances, they purposefully overlook these things because they make the assumption that somehow a solution will magically appear and solve the problems that the implementation of their idea created.

And probably most of all, in the last paragraph of the story:

Any promise of such cheap energy has to be treated with scepticism, and all these projects are still a long way from the full-scale test rigs needed to prove they will succeed.

So here I am, introducing a couple insightful points to consider (as well as several other posters) about some things that might rule this concept impractical. Maybe these guys thought of these problems, maybe not...but it's not covered in the story.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613791)

You know what else tends to reside in the path of the jet stream? Storm systems.

Seems like 10km up would also be right about... ah yes, cruising altitude for jetliners! What fun!

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614331)

Seems like 10km up would also be right about... ah yes, cruising altitude for jetliners! What fun!


Not to mention all altitudes below 10km that would have tethers hanging down through them...


But of course this problem has already been solved -- you just mark the affected areas as "no fly zones" on the air navigation maps.

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

Pointless-'IZ'-Us (932207) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613833)

I wonder how much ten kilometers of cable weighs...

Re:In the Jet Stream... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613869)

I bet that these things would make excellent conductors for lightning. Take them down when storms approach and put them back up afterwards?

Huh? Let me get this straight. They are tethered in order to transmit the electrical energy they produce to the ground. So when a storm approaches, ready to discharge an immense amount of electrical energy... you think they should be taken down? That's exactly what they are up there for in the first place!

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613881)

I bet that these things would make excellent conductors for lightning. Take them down when storms approach and put them back up afterwards?
Don't do that! That's 1.21 jigawatts of electricity you are throwing away!

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614105)

You need to send them a email right now! Those are some very important things I'm sure haven't been considered! You could save lives!

Re:In the Jet Stream... (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614205)

Nah, since it's likely that the people developing these things will be in close proximity to them for extended periods of time, I'll just let natural selection run its course.

That's Dutch alright (1)

pklinken (773410) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613315)

High as a kite, riiiight.

wind power is overrated (-1, Redundant)

mrtexe (1032978) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613427)

Wind power results in a net cost to the level of atmospheric energy. Any attempt to harness wind power extracts energy from the atmosphere and redirects it to human ends. On a small scale, that is no problem. On a large scale, like the bizarre concept represented in this post, the consequences on the planet would be unpredictable and eventually potentially harmful.

Inventors who do not take the unintended consequences of their inventions into account are prima facie unethical.

Unfortunately, the only real solution we have to the energy crisis is to reduce the human population on Earth. This can only happen with birth control in every corner of the globe.

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

Kazrath (822492) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613483)

Or another major world war. Wars kept the human population in check for a long time. Now with our "mostly" peaceful society one of the two major population reducers have been removed. With medical not far behind soon disease won't be much of a problem.

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613513)

Most of the energy humans use is returned right back into the atmosphere either as heat or simple particle motion. Cars heat the air and fight against nonmoving air, computers produce heat and light, and feeding people allows them to create heat, for examples.

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613525)

Make sure you get started on that.

(Unintended consequences are a big deal and all that, but you can drink about all the water you want out of a very small stream without affecting it, which is a reasonable analogy here(the harvested energy is such a small component of the total atmospheric energy that there really isn't any reason at all to worry unless you want people not using the energy for some other reason.))

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613635)

Wind power results in a net cost to the level of atmospheric energy. Any attempt to harness wind power extracts energy from the atmosphere and redirects it to human ends. On a small scale, that is no problem. On a large scale, like the bizarre concept represented in this post, the consequences on the planet would be unpredictable and eventually potentially harmful.

No... the consequences might be unpredictable and could be potentially harmful. It might turn out actually... good. Sometimes progress is actually progress.

Big, expensive, and high-tech is the most likely way we are going to solve our resource problems.

Hurricanes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613967)

Can we put these down in the carribean and pull energy out of the atmosphere to stop or atleast weaken hurricanes?

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

mrtexe (1032978) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614427)

If the inventor builds it without running a good faith calculation, it's unethical. I don't care if it's "obvious" that the scale is too small. Run a calculation and document it. Publish the results. Then if anything does go wrong later, we can look back and see where the calculation went wrong. If nothing goes wrong, we have a documented track record of success.

Re:wind power is overrated (2, Interesting)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613777)

Wind power results in a net cost to the level of atmospheric energy. Any attempt to harness wind power extracts energy from the atmosphere and redirects it to human ends. On a small scale, that is no problem. On a large scale, like the bizarre concept represented in this post, the consequences on the planet would be unpredictable and eventually potentially harmful.

By necessity, any generation of electricity is going to remove energy from our environment somehow. (In the case of fossil fuels, this is stored chemical energy, but it still came from somewhere.) Hydroelectric power, the big (and relatively environmentally friendly) energy producer where I live, requires a whole river to be diverted. This wind power proposal is more like sticking your toe into a fast-moving stream. It seems fair to assume (so long as we lack evidence to the contrary) that it is unlikely to have a significant effect (good or bad), and it would replace technologies with known negative effects.

Your argument seems to me no different than one which says we should not harness electricity from tidal changes because it contributes to tidal locking between the earth and moon. In both cases, the amount of energy likely to ever be extracted is only a very small portion of the total energy available.

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

atomic777 (860023) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613859)

Our planet is not necessarily overpopulated. The problem is the impact that those 6 billion or so are having. More specifically, the impact that a minority of those 6 billion are having.

If there were only 2 billion people consuming resources at the rate of Americans, our situation would be more dire.

Having said that, the impact of dumping long-buried carbon into the atmosphere to fuel our energy-hungry habits is almost certainly far worse than the impact of reducing the energy level of the jet stream by a tiny fraction.

Re:wind power is overrated (2, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614373)

Our planet is not necessarily overpopulated. The problem is the impact that those 6 billion or so are having. More specifically, the impact that a minority of those 6 billion are having.

Not true at all. While everyone likes to paint the Americans and other first-worlders as ruining the planet, the third-worlders are certainly doing their part as well.

Look at a satellite image of Haiti, and compare it to its neighbor Dominican Republic. Haiti is dirt-poor, but they're busy chopping down every tree on their side of the island, causing all kinds of problems with erosion and destruction of the marine environment offshore.

In Brazil, they're busily chopping down the rainforests to make way for agriculture. The rainforests are a huge carbon sink and change a lot of the CO2 in our atmosphere to O2, plus they have an enormous amount of biodiversity, with potential medicines waiting to be discovered there.

Pollution has become an enormous problem in places like China and Vietnam because of the rapid industrialization there.

It's not just resource consumption, but also resource management. At least the first-worlders have put some limits in place on pollution (especially the toxic kind, rather than CO2), which the third-worlders happily ignore in their ignorance.

The only way our planet could healthily support more people at a decent standard of living is for everyone to live peacefully in arcologies or other high-density utopian environments. The only way this will happen is if scientists can genetically modify all future humans to no longer be human: to not fight, to not be greedy or evil, to not be intolerant or force others to yield to their will, etc. Basically, we need to all act like ants, working only for the common good and completely ignoring any personal needs or wishes. Good luck with that.

Re:wind power is overrated (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614491)

Birth control? I think it's a little late if you want to manage resources by population reduction. Think more along the lines of 1943 in Poland.

To get pollution and resource consumption down to "sustainable" levels where waste products are natually recycled again we need to cut the population to no more than 200 million people. And that is assuming a high level of technology to support that many. Without a lot of technology, maybe more like 50 million is realistic.

Birth control isn't going to help when we are talking about a 97% drop in population. To do this within the next 20 years would require killing a million people a day for 20 years. However, if we want "sustainable" and restrict the environment to what is here on Earth alone we better get started because the problem is just getting worse every day.

Article translated into U.S. English here: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613469)

On the surface, the idea seems a little eccentric but, in fact, San Diego (California, US) based Sky WindPower has, apparently, thought their concept through pretty thoroughly and believes they can not only make this work, but do so profitably.
Translation:

This is a totally fucked up idea that has no hope of becoming reality. However, certain venture capitalists that have the ears of certain elected officials, retired milirary leaders, and recent political appointees think that this is certainly worthy of (1) government contracts, (2) earmarks in military spending bills, and (3) "grants" from the DOE, Military, and any other government agency that has a large amount of government gave-a-way cash to burn.

Thankfully, these cash infusions will allow technology companies to hire a least one full time patent attorney, with the goal of monopolizing any technology that could even be remotely useful to anyone else. Just in case the IPO doesn't make us billionaires.

Thank God that these guys are looking out for us and the environment through technology.

(nudge-nudge-wink-wink, Walmart's on board with this plan too - makes 'em look good and feel good)

Old concept, doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613639)

The problem is the tether: it's like the space elevator, the physics all works, as long as you can assume an infinitely cheap material that's incredibly strong and light. Notice that none of the companies in the article have actually built anything.

Re:Old concept, doesn't work (1)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614423)

Not sure about this, 10km sounds infinitely doable to me, unlike the distances required for a space elevator.
The article made it sound like the biggest obstacle is the engineering to minimise maintenance, which sounds about right.

Re:Old concept, doesn't work (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614431)

The Space Elevator relies on a carbon nanotube composite material. Nanotubes have already been produced in quantity, and scaling this up to make the SE cable is not that far off. However, I don't recall any requirement that the cable be cheap. With a single Space Shuttle mission costing $450 million, the cable could cost $5 billion to make and install and it would still pay for itself pretty quickly (that's only about 10 missions).

The economics for this flying power station are probably a little more limited than that.

Profit (4, Insightful)

Haxx (314221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613651)

It's a good thing it might be profitable, otherwise we would have to forget about the idea forever.

This is already obsolete, re: Disclosure Project (5, Funny)

Adeptus_Luminati (634274) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613685)

According to this public disclosure meeting in 2001, whereby high ranking government officials, very senior ex-military, black project staff, and ex-NASA employees pointed out... Zero point energy (aka. free energy) devices already exist, and have for decades, but are hidden by secret black project government programs due to the massive economic impact it would have on the world (i.e. no more need for OIL).

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCLOIcFTSlE [youtube.com]

It's time USA citizens wrote their congress men and appealed for all of these senior government etc officials to have a chance to testify under oath as they have promised to do. To date the disclosure project has over 400 such officials willing to testify. This is not wacko conspiracy theorists coming up with crazy theories... it's about the largest government cover up in the history of the modern world.

Adeptus.

PS. If the above is not enough to motivate you, think about how a world without burning fossil fuels would end the global warming impact nearly overnight! The evidence is simply overwhelming. See the video for yourself.

Re:This is already obsolete, re: Disclosure Projec (1)

MisterCookie (991581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613745)

In other news, we've already colonized several other star systems and have created a human alien hybrid. Am I missing anything else? Oh yeah, Bush Jr. was on the Grassy Knoll and really killed Kennedy.

Re:This is already obsolete, re: Disclosure Projec (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614503)

No, George Bush Jr. Went out drinking with Kennedy, got him so sloshed that he had alcohol poisoning and the D.T.s the next day, and they had to shoot him before he became a national embarassment by announcing Free Zero-Point Energy and Open Bars for the North Vietnamese.

But! (1)

iviagnus (854023) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613699)

But have they considered the ramifications of "harvesting" energy from the Jet Stream? Any energy they "extract" is removed from that part of the system, and could alter the delicate balance that exists. We're already screwing up our worlds temperature through greenhouse gas emissions, destroying parts of the food chain via pollution through several vectors, draining crop soils of nutrients by over-farming, over-fishing the oceans stocks, losing plant and animal species both near and at the base of the food-chain because of a number of human factors, etc, etc. When will we get a clue? I will add that if done in a way so as to minimally stress the system, then it should be researched further and potentially executed.

Re:But! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613873)

*runs around screaming*

Heh Heh.... (1)

syrrys (738867) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613747)

Pull my finger....

Stupid Stupid Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613781)

Nothing else to say.

Planes and birds hitting the tether (1)

lazzaro (29860) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613797)

Keeping airplanes and birds from hitting the tether could be an issue -- the former an aviation safety problem, the latter a reliability problem for the power station.

castle in the sky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18613839)

I think somebody's been watching too many Miyazaki movies.

Forget the tether... (3, Interesting)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613875)

... what about the power transfer cable? I can't imagine a cable that can carry 10MW of juice over 10KM of distance could possibly considered a lightweight matter. This little helicopter contraption will need to generate power AND have enough energy to remain aloft under the weight of that cable. I think it's an interesting concept, but the solution to all our future power woes? Enh. While we're dreaming big, I'd be more interested in this Energy Island [soton.ac.uk] concept being built out.

Re:Forget the tether... (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614027)

On second thought, if anyone here has the knowledge to calculate the cable size to carry 10MW and can figure the cable weight per meter and multiply by 10,000 of those... to determine how much weight this device must suspend, I think you have to double it because the ground line has to be able to carry the same amount of power. This isn't an issue for terrestrial power plants because they're ON the ground. But something up in the sky will need to be connected to ground to complete the circuit... is this crazy talk?

NAMBY (2, Funny)

lightversusdark (922292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18613979)

I can see the protests now: "Not above my back yard".

It's the end of the world as we know it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18614057)

Think about it for just *ONE FREAKING SECOND*!!! If we harness all this energy, that means jet streams get affected.
New jet streams = new ocean currents
New jet streams+new ocean currents=Massive climate change in 48 hours.

It's all been predicted. If these wind farms actually were established today, I'm predicting that New York City will be covered with glaciers by the end of Friday, which means not today, not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow!

Wind Farm, Funny Hahahaha (1)

JubJub67 (1084357) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614181)

This idea is really funny, i want to be the one contacted to get this wind farm up in the sky, because i just think that it would be one of the funniest things i will ever do. My workers will look at me like a complete idiot when i tell them that i need this here wind farm up in the jet stream, way way up there. I doubt that anyone will take this seriouly enough to do it. All the same i believe that they should give it a shot, just because i want to watch them put it up in the sky where it probably doesn't belong and probably wouldn't stay for long. So for pure entertainment purposes i hope they go through with this crazy idea. Hahahahaha :)

+1 Digg (1)

PimpDawg (852099) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614235)

I Digg this story. Why don't we just start RSS-ing digg.com on the top of the slashdot page?

Nuclear (1)

freefrag (728150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614265)

Or they could just go with nuclear.

Doesn't the jet stream move? (1)

x_codingmonkey_x (839141) | more than 7 years ago | (#18614365)

I was under the impression that the jet stream moved around throughout the year...
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