Mitsubishi Heavy Invests in Altaeros' Airborne Wind Technology

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Oman-based Suhail Bahwan Group have invested in Altaeros Energies Inc., a U.S. company developing airborne wind turbines, the companies said in a statement Thursday.

The move follows the December announcement by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Group Corp. that it planned to invest $7 million in Altaeros. Massachusetts-based Altaeros is working to commercialize technology to lift wind turbines into consistently high altitudes so that they can produce more power than tower-mounted turbines. Financial terms weren’t disclosed in Thursday’s statement.

A Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT)

Source: Mitsubishi Heavy industries Ltd. via Bloomberg

Altaeros’ device, called a Buoyant Airborne Turbine, or BAT, adapts existing technology found in tethered aerostats, according to the company’s website. Tethered aerostats resemble inflatable blimps and have been used in the past to lift heavy communications and monitoring equipment to high altitudes.

“MHI and SBG bring deep strategic expertise in developing and executing large technology projects for industrial and government customers around the world,” the companies said in the statement. 

Airborne turbines can be used to supply off-grid or remote customers with power supply, telecommunications and for other purposes such as sensing and security services.

“There are over one billion people that live without access to reliable electricity and three billion who do not have access to the Internet,” Ben Glass, CEO of Altaeros, said in the statement.

BAT uses a helium-filled shell that lifts a wind turbine to harness stronger and more consistent winds 600 meters (2,000 feet) above ground, about three times higher than the tallest existing tower-mounted wind turbines, according to the statement.

Altaeros was founded in 2010 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Suhail Bahwan has more than 40 companies ranging from electronics to health care.