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Sky Wind Power tilt rotor high altitude power generator
An artist's rendition of the next planned Flying Electric Generator rated at 240kW with rotor diameters of 35 feet. Such a craft would produce far more megawatt hours of electricity per year than a comparable ground-based turbine due to the much higher wind speeds and constancy above 15,000 feet (4,572 m).

From Kites to Hydrogen-Fueled Flight

The Potential for Hydrogen Powered Commercial Flight in the Northeastern USA and Canada

By Harry Valentine

Recent increases in fuel prices have impacted the airline industry in both the USA and in Canada. Long-term projections indicate that a barrel of oil could rise to over US$200 per barrel barring major discoveries of new oil reserves. Synthetic aviation has become available in countries like South Africa where the Sasolburg group produces oil from coal. Such fuel is sold to airlines at international fuel prices. It is likely that coal-based synthetic aviation fuel would eventually be produced in the USA for domestic use and may likely be sold at world oil prices.

The sustained high world price of oil has the potential to introduce alternate fuels into the commercial aviation industry. Bio-fuel may not be an appropriate choice given the rising price of food around the world combined with the propensity to grow bio-fuel crops on arable agricultural land. Morality dictates that the choice of alternative aviation fuel be independent of food production. Aviation turbine engines have the advantage of having a tolerance for a wide range of fuels without operational detriment.

Commercial aviation turbine engines have successfully operated on hydrogen on the test bed as well as in flight. Only minor modifications need be done to the existing technology in order for hydrogen to be used as a commercial aviation fuel. There are numerous locations around the world where it would be possible to generate hydrogen at competitive cost given the projected world price of a barrel of oil. One of those locations is Northeastern Canada where an abundance of wind energy during winter and year round ocean energy may become the source of hydrogen.

Canada is home to a massive inland oceanic lake known as Hudson Bay over which powerful winds blow year round and especially during winter. There are an estimated 1600-islands on the eastern side of Hudson Bay as well as another 100-islands on the eastern side of James Bay that lies to the southeast of Hudson Bay. Both bays provide the province of Quebec with an extensive western coastline over which powerful winds blow at high elevation. An American company called SkyWindPower and a Canadian company called Magenn are developing airborne wind turbines.

Satellite photo fo Baffin Island

Powerful winds also blow across the Everett Mountains of southeastern Baffin Island (pictured in above satellite image) and over the Torngat Mountains of Northern Labrador. It may be able to install some 5000 airborne wind turbines from each company around the islands of Hudson Bay and James Bay as well as an extra 5000 more such turbines from each company along the western coast of Quebec. Additional wind turbines may also be installed at Baffin Island and in Northern Labrador should the need arise. SkyWindPower claims that within 3-years that their technology could generate up to 20MW from each installation at a projected cost of below 5-cents per kilowatt-hour. Power levels of 100Mw may be possible from high-elevation wind power conversion over the long-term future.

There is the potential to generate over 200,000MW from the high-altitude winter winds that blow over Northern Canada and produce the equivalent of over 125,000Mw of hydrogen (8,125,000-lbs hydrogen per hour containing 51,000-BTU/lb). Given the nature of wind power generation the practical average available power may be closer to 50,000Mw. The hydrogen may be shipped south through the combination of undersea pipeline and overland pipeline. The pipelines may carry hydrogen to such cities as Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo, Boston, New York City and Washington. A percentage of the hydrogen would be stored in the identical manner as natural gas, that is, in large subterranean dome-roof caverns that have been flushed of salt. Some of these caverns can measure up to a mile in diameter by up to 6-miles in vertical height.

Hydrogen powered commercial aircraft could operate scheduled commercial service on routes that connect the aforementioned cities. A variety of hydrogen powered road vehicles would also likely operate in those cities and would shore some of the hydrogen storage and distribution infrastructure with the aviation industry. The hydrogen that would sustain such transportation operations would not only come from northern wind energy. Ocean tides move massive volumes of water through Hudson Strait between the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson Bay with an estimated output exceeding 30,000MW should kinetic turbines be installed in some of the channels in Hudson Strait and produce some 20,000MW of hydrogen (over 1,300,000-lbs of hydrogen per hour containing some 51,000-BTU/lb).

Long-Haul Hydrogen-powered Flight:

While hydrogen-powered flight may be well suited to short-haul flights, it could see service on some long-haul international flights. Powerful winds blow over the Andes Mountains of South America and the Sierra Mountains of Central America where batteries of high-altitude wind turbines may be installed. Hydrogen could become available at airports like Mexico City, Panama, Quito, Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires. Research has already been undertaken on the possibility of ultra-high altitude supersonic flight powered by hydrogen. The market niche for such technology would likely be north-south flights such as New York – Buenos Aires that cross over very few time zones.

Conclusions:

Hydrogen-powered commercial flight would likely develop on a regional basis involving short-haul flights at locations where an abundance of electric power could be generated at relatively low costs. On that basis it would become possible to generate large quantities of hydrogen for use in the transportation industry. The existing aviation turbine engines could be modified to operate on hydrogen with only minor modifications. Long-haul commercial flights that are powered by hydrogen would likely develop between regions where short-haul hydrogen-powered flights had been instituted. The hydrogen may be transported either by pipeline or inside spherical tanks aboard ships that may call at such ports as New York City, Boston and Baltimore (Washington DC).

References:
Web page http://www.skywindpower.com
Web page http://www.magenn.com/winddata.php
Web page http://topics.energycentral.com/centers/gentech/view/detail.cfm?aid=1421

Times Article Viewed: 9866
Published: 10-Jun-2008

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