If you are living in a U.S. city, you may take one commodity for granted: electricity. But in rural areas, such as large swaths of Alaska, lack of access to electricity is the daily norm. While many of us anticipate the next innovation in the world of high technology, an eye-opening 20 percent of the world’s population—nearly 1.3 billion people—has no access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook. Much of India, for example, is without electrical energy, as reported on the phys.org website.
From cooking without biomass fuels to fueling a local economy, electricity is essential. Change is coming – an innovative product promises to deliver electricity anywhere, at low cost. Here’s how.
Consider options, ask questions
A group of graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology knew this: “There is enough energy in winds that are out of reach to power the world 100 times over.” They also knew that wind is a more sustainable and predictable energy supply source—at higher elevations—than solar power.
Their logical question? How can we harness that? They formed Altaeros Energies to work on the answer. You can access their video on CNN’s website here.
Find innovation in integration of designs
The product that grew out of this quest is the Buoyant Airborne Turbine, or BAT, a redesign and integration of a turbine and a blimp.
The BAT design places the now-familiar three-pronged turbine—sans tower—in the middle of a helium-filled blimp redesigned to resemble a huge donut.
The BAT is a winning innovation because of its clear advantages over other currently available energy supply sources.
- At 35 feet wide and tethered to the ground, it can be managed remotely, including its height, to access that wind power that has been out of reach before the BAT.
- It’s easily transported and set up, needing no heavy equipment to install.
- It’s a clean source of electrical energy.
- At about 2000 feet high, it is below most airplane flight paths and above bird flight paths.
- It’s a cost-effective option—which makes it attractive as a viable electricity supply source. No electrical grids or power stations are required.
The New York Times reports: “As far-fetched as a field of wind turbines swaying as high as 2,000 feet in the air may seem, the partners say the technology is relatively tried and true. Rather than inventing a whole new approach, … the partners looked to the most proven, least risky equipment to make a product as quickly and cheaply as possible.”
Altaeros Energies plans to pilot its product in Alaska this year. The Times says, “In Alaska … as in other remote regions, representing a multibillion-dollar market Altaeros hopes to tap—energy costs run so high that even a promising but largely unproven technology is cost-effective, officials say.”
This product innovation was developed once the problem was well understood and options considered.
Two available, familiar products—the wind turbine and the blimp—were each redesigned and integrated. The redesigned combination of the two products become the new product that addresses the need of the niche market—cost-effective access to electricity.
Looking at proven product designs to leverage and combinedwith other designs is a tried and true innovation approach.