Three different airborne wind power technologies are in development, and are discussed in this article. Sky Windpower’s uses motors to get the turbines into position, then once in position the motors turn to generators. That’s pretty cool.
And they would have far better uptime than most windmills–since the jetstream never quits, they should operate at peak capacity 70-90% of the time. Output would also be less dependent on location than it is on the ground, simply because terrain doesn’t matter much when you’re at 35,000ft; however, since the jetstream and other “geostrophic” winds don’t blow much at latitudes near the equator, it would be useful primarily for middle- and higher-latitudes.
They can’t promise uninterrupted power all the time, however. In an electrical storm, the power-carrying tether becomes the biggest lightning rod you’ve ever seen. (Move over, Ben Franklin!) Their website says this problem is “frequently brought to our attention, and must be addressed.” Their plan is to take the flyers down to land before a storm gets bad, and wait for it to end.
Oops, that would be a problem. Thanks to Boing Boing for the link. So what do you think? Feasible? Economical?