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Science: Energy: Wind: High Altitude
Inflatable Wind Turbine   (+2, -2)  [vote for, against]
Inflatable tower and rotor

Inflatable wind turbines: tough (compared to fiber composites), easily deployed, non-destructive failure modes (elastic buckling), great fatigue strength, perhaps cheap?
-- afinehowdoyoudo, May 27 2007

Airbeam http://nsc.natick.a...shelter/Airbeam.htm
making inflatables more rigid by adding high-tensile-modulus elements to a flexible bladder [afinehowdoyoudo, May 27 2007]

Inflatoplane http://en.wikipedia...odyear_Inflatoplane
what happens if you dare to dream? [afinehowdoyoudo, May 27 2007]

Very tall tower Very_20tall_20tower
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 http://techcrunch.c...-digital-billboard/
[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, May 29 2007

[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?
-- afinehowdoyoudo, May 29 2007

[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.
-- Cosh i Pi, May 30 2007

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 tension.

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]
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 03 2007

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?
-- Cosh i Pi, Jun 03 2007

Found a link, though it is not very descriptive (clink).
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 03 2007

random, halfbakery