Company hopes to tap high winds for rural power

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News,Business

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A Boston-based company was preparing to test a flying wind turbine that it hopes could lower power costs to Alaska villages and other remote locations.

Altaeros (awl-TAYR'-os) Energies said the Buoyant Airborne Turbine aims to take advantage of high-altitude winds that are stronger and more consistent than those at lower levels.

The turbine is lightweight and gets lifted off the ground by a cylindrical fabric shell inflated with helium. The cylinder has four fins that help stabilize it while it's in the air, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1kiLX19 ). Power is sent to the ground through high-strength conductive tethers.

Altaeros Energies was founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take advantage of energy offered by wind that blows hundreds of feet high, Altaeros co-founder Adam Rein said.

"Because of that, you're running the generator closer to capacity more of the time," Rein said.

Altaeros operated a pilot program with the flying turbine in Maine, and the next step is a longer deployment, which it looks to do in Alaska.

The company has received a grant of about $750,000 from the Alaska Energy Authority to help pay for the new experiment and searched for locations in the state last year. One possibility is the Eva Creek wind farm operated by the Fairbanks-based Golden Valley Electric Association. The company also met with representatives of TDX Power, which provides power to remote locations.

"Ultimately, the goal is to deploy the BAT at off-grid village sites that have high (energy) costs," Rein said.

Power rates vary from village to village. The cost per kilowatt hour in Fort Yukon last year was 66 cents but the state's Power Cost Equalization subsidy program lowered that to 17 cents for residential customers.

The company also sees uses for the technology at industries off the power grid and for disaster relief.

The cost to install the flying turbine should be up to a third lower than that of a traditional wind turbine and should generate two or three times the energy, Rein said. The company is applying for permits for the pilot program and deployment is likely several months off, he said. The program will cost $1.3 million, and the turbine will remain in the sky for up to 18 months.

Altaeros conducted the test in Maine at 500 feet. The plan for the Alaska test is a blimp at 1,000 feet.

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Online:

Altaeros Energy: http://bit.ly/1oirjUN

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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