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German Agency for Disruptive Innovation supporting development of high-altitude on-shore wind turbines

Among the projects being funded by the German Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIND) is an effort by Horst Bendix to develop a high-altitude, on-shore wind turbine. The higher a wind turbine is installed, the more efficiently it will work, because the wind is much steadier and blows with greater force at altitude.

However, conventional wind turbines are subject to high dynamic loads as a result of the massive weight of the nacelle at hub height. There is practically no way to build them taller, as they would be too unstable and economically too costly.


Bendix, who was in charge of technology and research at heavy-equipment manufacturer Kirow, has designed a version of a high-altitude wind turbine for low-wind, onshore use with a hub height clearly higher than everything else built to date.

Bendix’ innovation include:

  • The generator is no longer located in the nacelle, which means the new and much taller tower is no heavier than the current ones.

  • The tower’s mass no longer increases disproportionately to its height.

  • The tower is built using standard steel pipes that are readily available and transportable.

All of this results in a reduction of tower weight by 50%, and a reduction of total investment costs by 40%. Trimming manufacturing costs drastically cuts the costs per megawatt hour of power generated.

SPRIND GmbH was founded in Leipzig in December 2019. The agency is a flexible and fast state funding instrument with which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK) want to support and accelerate the identification and development of innovative ideas.

For the start-up phase 2019-2022, funds of at least €151 million were budgeted. The agency is initially planned as an experimental effort for a period of ten years. For this ten-year term (from 2019), a total budget of €1 billion is expected.



There is a bit more here:

' Bendix wants to build the tower itself out of standard steel tubes, which substantially reduces the overall cost. The structure stands on a turntable so that it can always face into the wind in the optimum direction. This could involve a trolley, similar to those used on container cranes, or a ball bearing slewing ring. Bendix knows all about the latter because he designed the rotating sphere on the Berlin Television Tower. Bendix is working on a prototype with support from the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation(SPRIND).

How effectively could machines of this kind “harvest” high-altitude wind in the future? Horst Bendix says that his wind turbines would be able to deliver ten times the power of today’s best facilities – and this would be possible with an 80% reduction in land use. Bendix and SPRIND have also considered possible locations for high-altitude wind turbines. The systems would be “the most intelligent solution for repurposing the former lignite mines”, says the SPRIND website. “Not only the current coal fields in the German states of Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia but also the former fields in Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg can very realistically become wind energy-based regions for innovation and production.”'

I fancy this one - the guy at the heart of it seems to have some serious engineering chops and this is not ultra speculative as Makani was, in my view.

What do you folk reckon?


If you have a tower 250m high with a large windmill on top, you have quite a bending moment.
The turntable will have to have a large diameter to handle big gusts.
Also, the belt drive to the generator will have to be very strong - I have no idea if this sort of thing has been done before - a belt 500m long transmitting 10 MW.
Still worth a shot, you never know what will come of it.
Probably safer than kite windmills.


@ mahonj:
Why not use a carbon fiber rod instead of a belt? Such a rod could consist of 30 to 50 mtr. segments and have guide-bearings every 25 mtrs. or so. Might be more expensive but certainly more durable.


"Why not use a carbon fiber rod....."
A hollow carbon rod of course.


The generator is no longer located in the nacelle
this makes more sense


What irks me is that we keep seeing all of these efforts to "improve" ultra-large wind machines, without addressing any of their environmental drawbacks:

  1. The bigger they are, the slower they turn and the worse and farther-reaching their infrasound emissions are.
  2. Anti-collision lights are visual pollution and can disrupt sleep too.
  3. They disrupt wind patterns on the ground, such as increasing night-time wind speeds and increasing evaporation due to more turbulence.  This is NOT good in drought conditions.

Some years back I saw a novel wind machine with no moving parts.  It used an electrostatically-charged grid with venturi nozzles in it and a water jet in the middle of each one.  The charge on the grid induced an opposite charge on the water stream, which broke up into droplets which were carried away by the wind.  This left the water nozzle with a net current input to it, which could be tapped for power.  The water droplets eventually fall to earth and complete the electric circuit.  This gets rid of all of the problems with infrasound, stroboscopic effect and so much else with bladed wind machines.

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