Inflatable wind turbines were wind turbines that went as high as 300 feet. They were more efficient than conventional turbines.
(Note: The background section of this page uses most of the same words as Terra Futura's page on super wind turbines to save time.)
Windmills had been around since Roman times, but the first practical windmill was was built in AD 500 in Persia. The axis was vertical and the sails were horizontal. The windmill was set inside stone walls that funneled wind through a gap. Around the year 1400, as many peasants were moving into the towns, millers started using windmills to grind wheat into flour. The Europeans improved the design by mounting the sails vertically on a tower. This allowed the wind to strike every sail at once. Windmills became more common as a result. In 1850, the agricultural windpump was invented. A tail fan was used to keep the main fan facing the wind. They would continue to be used into the 21st century along with wind turbines.
Conventional horizontal axis wind turbines were invented in the 1890s. They consisted of a shaft that turned an electric generator. The shaft normally contained three blades. In the late 20th century, these blades were pointed into the wind by motors that were controlled by a computer. The blades were stiff to prevent them from braking. A wind sensor was used to measure wind speed. A servo motor turned the turbine. All turbines had to be protected at high wind speeds. For this, the blades were feathered, and the brakes came on. Wind power became common in the early 21st century. By then, other turbines were being considered like a vertical axis turbine.
Vertical axis turbines were just as old as horizontal axis turbines. They were faster than horizontal axis turbines. They did not make noise. The support structure was not over-stressed. The sails were omnidirectional. Despite these advantages, there were too many disadvantages. They stalled in gusty winds. Vertical axis turbines were also unstable and prone to fatigue. The sails even often ripped apart. Thus, vertical axis turbines never became popular. Horizontal axis turbines were the way to go. New turbines called super wind turbines were coming into the market.
The main problem with conventional turbines was that the blades were large and cumbersome. Any negligence leading to breakage of blades and the large gearbox that turned them could cause a technician to wind up in hoosegow. A solution developed at Selsam was the Super Wind Turbine. This new turbine had a long and flexible drive shaft like a human spine. On it were six to eight small turbines. Early prototypes produced 6,000 watts. The amount of energy was increased by adding a dirigible. This allowed the shaft in wind direction. Super Wind Turbines were used in offshore windfarms. There was a problem not easily solved. Breakage could cause a boat to be damaged. Negligence leading to this could still cause a technician to go to hoosegow. On land, there was a better alternative. It was the inflatable wind turbine.
Tech Level: 10
The main problem with ground-based wind turbines was that they were using surface winds which were notoriously unreliable. 300 meters up winds blew much more steadily and with more overall energy. The Magenn Air Rotor System was an inflatable wind turbine tethered to the ground. It spun around a horizontal axis like conventional turbines. The spin generated power which went to the ground through the tethers which were in fact power cables. The turbine used the Magnus effect which created a vortex of air around itself. This created additional lift and stabilized it in place. Efficiency was 60 % compared to ground-based systems. An inflatable wind turbine could be used anywhere. If the tethers snapped, an automated deflation system would bring it to the ground. An inflatable wind turbine could go up to 300 meters, but a flying wind turbine could go higher.