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MARS Wind Turbine--Higher Energy Conversion Efficiency

by Stanford Magnets

A MARS turbine, or Magenn Air Rotor System turbine, is a wind turbine located in a giant blimp that floats at 600~ 1,000 feet (183~305 meters) in the air. Compared with the traditional and conventional ones, the MARS turbines overcome several limits and are expected to provide higher energy conversion efficiencies.


Defects of a conventional wind turbines

A wind turbine uses the clean and renewable wind energy to generate electricity. The simple version of wind power's working principle is that the wind spins the turbine's blades, which, in turn, cause an attached generator to also spin. The generator then converts the moving energy of the wind into electricity.


The conventional wind turbines are ground-based ones. Although successful in the energy conversion, these regular turbines have many defects. Constructing and installing conventional wind turbines is a great endeavor that often involves foundation blasting and laborious transportation of heavy equipment. Digging up the ground may promote erosion in some areas, while removing trees and other disruption to the pristine environment can disturb the original species structure and create fragment habitats. Just imagine the rotor blades that weigh thousands of pounds a piece and are larger than a Boeing 747, you can understand what a big task it is to set one turbine in the ground.


MARS turbines, taking wind power to a higher level

MARS turbines, on the other hand, avoid all the above problems and are even expected to present new advantages.


No need of digging work or disruption to environment

MARS turbines use a different method to draw power from the wind: a giant blimp floats at 600~1,000 feet (183 to 305 meters) above the surface of the earth to catch high-speed, high-altitude wind gusts. In this way, they have eliminated the trouble of digging ground and disruption to the environment.


Stronger wind and more wind power

Wind at higher levels is significantly faster than low-level wind because it doesn't encounter as much resistance from objects on the ground such as trees and buildings. Researches shown that with each doubling of elevation, there will be a 12% increase in wind speed; with each doubling of wind speed there will be an eightfold increase in wind power.


Lighter blades

Instead of the large pinwheel blades of conventional wind turbines, the blades of the MARS turbine are actually part of the three-dimensional blimp itself. The blades catch the wind, causing the entire blimp to spin around. After the generator converts the movement into current, the electricity is transferred down the turbines’ long tether or tensioning cables, which attaché the blimp to the ground.


History and prospect of MARS turbines

MARS turbines were originally designed to turn wind energy into electricity in remote areas, such as the Antarctic, where it would be difficult to set up traditional wind turbines. The first MARS turbine is expected to produce 10kW of power. After this, Magenn Power, the company that develops the technology, will work on a 100kW turbine. If this is successful, the company plans to develop a small, 4kW backpack generator for use in homes or on camping trips. MARS turbines will cost approximately $5-$10 per watt. Conventional wind energy only costs about 5 cents per kWh, but MARS costs could drop as technology improves, as did the conventional wind energy, which cost 30 cents per kWh 30 years ago.

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