Canadian company LTA Windpower has designed an inflatable wind turbine to generate electricity for remote areas that do not have access to a power grid.
The PowerShip looks like a blimp with wings and two spinning propellers. LTA Windpower’s engineers wanted to create an inflatable wind turbine that built upon existing technology by using elements and subsystems that have already been proven to work, such as airships, wings, and axial flow propeller turbines, with minor modifications.
The design of the PowerShip is based on a non-rigid airship. Rather than a typical gondola underneath, it has wings similar to those of an airplane. Each wing has a nacelle to generate electricity. The propellers are located on the trailing edges of the wings and face the rear of the inflatable wind turbine. This gives it an appearance resembling an airplane with a wide-bodied inflatable fuselage and large push propellers.
A tether is attached to the front center of the wing to anchor it to the ground. The PowerShip operates close to neutral buoyancy, making it unnecessary to have a winch on the ground to deploy or retrieve it. The PowerShip can operate without needing to be controlled by people on the ground.
LTA Windpower decided to use hydrogen rather than the helium typically used in balloons because hydrogen is cheaper and can be produced on-site by electrolyzing water using energy generated by the wind turbine. Since hydrogen is more flammable than helium, the engineers developed a specially designed envelope to prevent the hydrogen from igniting.
The PowerShip can be created at a larger scale to generate more electricity if necessary. Turbines up to 50 kW intended mostly to be used off-grid will use non-grid synchronous permanent magnet generators, storage batteries, and inverters. Larger units that can be connected to an electrical grid can utilize AC synchronous generators and blade-pitch adjustment.