Hmmmm...there's somethin wrong with this...
Lawrence Solomon, Urban Renaissance Institute's executive director, is a columnist for the National Post and past editor of The Next City magazine. The piece below was published in the National Post March 19/2005
Flying Windmills by Lawrence Solomon
Don't like fossil fuels? Nuclear power? Hydro dams? Go fly a kite. Really. The next great energy technology may well involve implausible-sounding machines called Flying Electric Generators, windmills 30,000 feet high and tethered to the ground by power lines.
...The flying wind generator, drawing power from the local electric company through its tether, uses helicopter-like rotors to climb skyward and GPS technology to keep its bearings. Once at its desired altitude, the generator drifts in the wind while the rotors generate electricity and send power down the same tether that had powered its ascent.
...Sky WindPower plans to raise clusters of these aircraft – perhaps 600 at a time – above lands not far from metropolitan centres.
...On land, the flying wind generator's requirement is negligible. Floating above forests or farmers' fields, the tethers would cost next to nothing in land or agricultural production while providing farmers with a bit of revenue for the use of their land.
If a flying generator ever fell from the sky, as would be inevitable, it would crash in an unpopulated area and so represent minimal threat to human safety.
...The very best winds, 30,000 feet up, happen to blow along the Canada-U.S. border, where most of our population resides. At Montreal, Toronto, Windsor, Winnipeg or Regina, or Vancouver, a flying windmill will typically operate at 85% to 90% of its full capacity.
...Will investors take a flyer on this technology? So far, the big boys have stayed away, and for understandable reason. The smart money is moving to Arctic pipelines, nuclear plants, tar sands, LNG facilities and other government-subsidized energy systems that are with us in a big way only because government decrees it.
The world's energy entrepreneurs have all vanished, aside from a small band tilting at windmills in the sky.
Lawrence Solomon is a genuine optimist. However, I think he fails here to see some problems.
First off, he is quite clear that a 'flying windmill' when it crashes, will fall in an umpopulated area. Then he makes two comments which suggest that these windmills will be close to populated areas. Hmmmm...
Second, I see this machine requires power from the ground to get into the air, only turning into a generator when it reaches the high altitude winds. This doesn't make sense to me. On the ground, the windmill doesn't have to carry the 10km of cable that will be required to transport the electricity to the ground.
That's a hell of a handful of cable. According to one site I searched such cable can weigh 2lbs/m. (0000 guage). That means you got roughly 20k lbs. of cable you have to hoist in addition to the weight of the windmill.
But if that windmill can't make it off the ground on it's own power, with none of the cable weight pulling it down, how will it stay aloft with an added (approx - I know) ten tonnes of cable?
Which would also be a consideration if this thing crashed. It wouldn't just fall straight to earth, after all, it's supposed to float on the breeze, so it would most likely stretch itself out as far as it could on the way down.
Unless the cable broke, of course, in which case it could drift for miles.
In any case, I can't see how this thing can generate more power than what is required to keep it afloat. I believe it would always be a power drain, not a generator.
Perhaps a babble physics type could enlighten me.