What the FEG? Hovering Windmills Promise Cheap Energy

With global warming and peak oil both looming large in the global consciousness, one way or another the age of fossils fuels is headed in the same direction as the old fossils themselves. Solar, geothermal, clean-ish coal, and even nuclear are being touted as the Next Big Way to keep society energized while maintaining a planet fit for human habitation.

But what if there was enough clean energy right over your head to run the planet, and cheaper than anything else out there to boot? And I don’t mean the beam-ships from the Pleiades, although they’re up there too.  

A company out of California called Sky Windpower wants to fill the sky with Flying Electric Generators (FEGs), gigantic airborne windmills which would convert the energy of high altitude winds into electricity.

A test FEG has already been flown successfully, and a larger high altitude version is planned for the future.

The company estimates that 600 FEGs at 20 megawatts each, located in a 10-by-20 mile triangle, could provide three times as much electricity as the most productive generating plant in the US. Forty-three such arrays would supply enough power to meet the current needs of the entire country, at an estimated price of less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (The average cost for residential electricity in the US in April 2006 was 10.65¢Kwh).

Arrays could also be set up in remote areas around the world, and used to power plants that would produce hydrogen as fuel for power plants and fuel-cell vehicles.

Sky Windpower acknowledges potential safety hazards in having 35,000-foot-high tethered turbines scattered around the country—if a plane accidentally flew into an array, it probably wouldn’t be pretty. However,  Sky Windpower honchos point out that the nations’ power needs could be met using less than 1/400 of all airspace, far less than what’s already banned to civil aircraft anyway.