6 thoughts on “Remember that animation of an inflatable flying windmill?

  1. Cool … but we really need to inflate those things with hydrogen rather than helium. I also wonder about the cost of ownership over a number of years – how often does the balloon need to be replaced? Then of course there are the airspace restrictions which you have to contend with in many areas.

  2. My sister was bemoaning the fact that helium (for party balloons) prices have increased. A shortage apparently.

    We are boycotting helium use for such frivolous uses and leaving it for scientists to use for projects like this. Would hydrogen be safe when it’s attached to the truck?

  3. I also wonder about hydrogen. Surely in the years since the Hindenburg there is better technology available to avoid this kind of repeat. Maybe hydrogen blimps could be limited to desert areas (no grass or forest fires), or over water.

  4. I think that if they are high enough, then hydrogen could be used safely.

    The issues are if the hydrogen burned, how much thermal radiation would hit the ground. If the hydrogen mixed with air and exploded, how much of a shock wave would hit the ground.

    If the tether broke, would planes crash into it. If the tether broke, and it rose into the air, when would it burst and crash to Earth and how much damage would it cause.

    Hydrogen flames don’t radiate very much because there are no particles. Carbon (aka soot) is the emitter in hydrocarbon flames, that is what makes them look yellow and bright, incandescent carbon.

    Generating hydrogen on site with off-peak power would make the H2 pretty cheap, and if you put a fuel cell you could store hydrogen for peak power too.

  5. Hydrogen? Accidents *will* happen, but then again, they always do. Gasoline isn’t exactly safe, you know, and even steam engines managed to fail catastrophically. But this thing is neither a ship nor a railroad, I see no reason why there should be many people near the device at any given time. This alone should limit the scope of possible accidents.

    Parts dropping from the sky? IIRC the US has something like 50+ lightning flashes per year and square mile. I don’t think dropping turbine parts could get anywhere near that, neither in count nor in damage-per-incident. Still sucks if it happens to hit you, though.

    I’m more concerned about the weather: you probably can’t keep these things in the air during a severe storm. How long does it take to store them (what kind of weather service do you need)? And where do you store them? Not all in one place, not if filled with hydrogen.

  6. The authors of this meta-study found that both scientific and more anecdotal studies were very likely to describe problems of annoyance with the presence of wind turbines. However, a particularly interesting pattern notable in the scientific studies was that annoyance and self-reported health effects were more strongly correlated with subjective characteristics like opinions that wind turbines were ugly or intrusive, or in individuals who had high sensitivity to noise in the first place.

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