Blimp-lofted wind turbines: huge return on investment

This awesome-looking prototype of blimp-lofted wind turbine can apparently achieve significant energy return on costs by being tethered high above the usual 300ft ceiling presented by ordinary tower-based turbines, delivering power for up to 65% cheaper than conventionally-built wind turbines that produce the same power. And that 65% figure assumes a height of 1000ft — Altaeros was aiming for a working ceiling of 2000ft!

My chief concern is the use of helium, which we’re kinda running terribly short on, owing to the ridiculously short-sighted US Congress in 1996. Their setting the price artificially low, and their vow to sell off the helium reserve by 2015, coupled with terrible misuse of helium for party balloons (since the stuff’s so damned cheap, it’s actually more expensive to recycle it!), could spell disaster for us. We have no ready source for it except for the natural decay of minerals or as a byproduct of the extraction of natural gas. And our use of helium is increasing rapidly, since we use a good deal of it for medical and radiation detection purposes.

If we can solve the helium problem, I’ll take a million of these, kplzthx. We might just solve the energy problem yet!

Hat tip to Climate Crocks.

Richard Alley on the Expense of Clean Energy

Professor Richard Alley explains why switching to clean energy — that which does not output CO2 — is pretty much an infrastructure problem, one which we’ve already solved once.

The technology we have to produce energy that does not rely on the burning of fossil fuels already exist, though they’re expensive. The main problems are those of cost-effectiveness and how much time we actually have before the issues become too great to overcome, and whether we’ll spend the necessary money to change our infrastructure before the damage we’re bringing on ourselves will cost way, way more than the cost for making the jump.

So the real question is not whether to do it, it’s a question of when. When will we stop putting short term profits over long term viability? When will we buckle down and solve the infrastructure problem that’s destroying our planet’s climate, in a way that will cost many more lives than did the emptying of chamber pots onto the streets?