The phrase “wind power” conjures up images of sweeping plains and large, open spaces. But according to new research from Caldeira and Christina Archer at California State University, Chico, the North American Eastern Seaboard and the Chinese coastline have the best potential for high-altitude wind power.
While lower-altitude wind power usually works best in areas with open spaces, high-altitude wind power harvesting requires minimal space to produce maximum energy. Since jet streams traveling in atmospheric currents move much faster than wind on the ground, areas with ideal positions below polar jet streams have the highest potential for wind power. And according to CSU Chico’s new research, New York City has enough energy potential in a square meter to provide for the average American’s energy needs.
Even before CSU Chico’s study, a host of start-ups with names like KiteGen, Sky Windpower, Makani, and Magenn popped up to work on high-altitude wind power. Most of these companies are working on kite-like designs to harness energy. The secretive Google-funded start-up Makani, for example, is designing membrane structures to cover large areas of the sky. The company has a number of kite designers and kitesurfers on its team.
Products to capture high-altitude winds aren’t yet on the market, but Archer believes that technology will be commercially available in the next decade.
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