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Inflatable wind turbines: tough (compared to fiber composites), easily deployed, non-destructive failure modes (elastic buckling), great fatigue strength, perhaps cheap?
making inflatables more rigid by adding high-tensile-modulus elements to a flexible bladder [afinehowdoyoudo, May 27 2007]
what happens if you dare to dream? [afinehowdoyoudo, May 27 2007]
Very tall tower
Using light-as-air inflated tubes with bulkheads [Cosh i Pi, May 29 2007]
Magenn Power Inc.'s Air Rotor
No tower required - it's filled with helium. [jutta, May 29 2007]
Skybow - the ultimate flexible turbine
Scroll down for a sketch. The linked page is defunct, alas. [MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 03 2007]
Inflatable wind turbine patent by Segway's inventor
[theircompetitor, Oct 15 2011]
||Not sure about the rotor - but I strongly suspect the towers would be feasible, and probably an economic proposition.
||See also my closely related idea.
||The quote about "well-aimed bow and arrow" is a very nice sound bite, but isn't really appropriate. Have you ever tried shooting out the tyre sidewalls of a moving car with a bow and arrow? It'd be easier.
||[Cosh i Pi], agreed about the "well aimed bow and arrow". Anything is vulnerable to vandalism, & nobody has declared war on wind turbines
||[Lt_Frank], the deformation under load could maybe be solved by cable stays?
||[iron_horse] I wish it were true that no-one has declared war on wind turbines! (Don Quixote was the first, I think.)
||As to deformation - that depends on the elasticity of the envelope. A Carbon fibre re-inforced skin could be flexible yet be very stiff once inflated.
||Ages ago I saw something called a
Skybow (it seems to have vanished from
the Web) - basically a long long ribbon
held between two swivel attachments
on the ground.
||The profile of the ribbon was such that,
in a modest breeze, it would spin and
also generate lift, rising up into a
rainbow-shaped arc. The whole thing
is flexible and, essentially, all in
||Why not build giant skybows (maybe a
10m-wide, kilometre-long ribbon,
inflated under modest pressure just to
maintain the right profile), and anchor
each end to a generator, maybe in the
desert. I don't know the efficiency of
such a device compared to a
conventional windmill, but the wind-
catching part (the ribbon) should be
very cheap to produce compared to an
equivalent area of blade. You might
want to helium-fill the ribbon to keep it
aloft when the wind dies.
||[EDIT - I just realized that by putting a
generator on the end, you are
restricting the rotation and hence the
ribbon will tend to go into torsion as
well as tension. However, the ribbon
spins fairly fast, so maybe with the right
gearing the torque needn't be very high]
||You've hit on an important point about wind (or solar) power generators there, [Maxwell] - efficiency isn't actually the main figure of merit, because your "fuel" is free. The main figures of merit are capital cost per mean power produced, and maintenance costs per unit energy produced. Who cares if it's only 5% efficient, if it's a tenth the price of one that's 35% efficient?
||Found a link, though it is not very