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Harvesting the Wind

The global potential of wind energy is massive. To use it even more efficiently, TwingTec, a spin-off of Empa and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, have developed a flight wind turbine that produces electricity cheaply.


High up in the air, the winds blow more strongly than they do closer to the ground; and since their power increases exponentially with growing wind speeds, wind farms are rising higher and higher into the sky. Experts like Empa physician Rolf Luchsinger know, however, that “the outer limits of what is technically possible will soon be reached.” This is why scientists all over the world are busy exploring the concept of the ‘flight wind turbine’. In 2013, Luchsinger and four of his colleagues established TwingTec. Since then, they have succeeded in fully automating the movements of a wing in flight attached to a generator by a line. Plans are in motion to build a pilot system, with market entry being planned for 2018. Luchsinger believes his first customers will be electricity consumers without a grid connection such as remote settlements or mines, for example. As he explained: “There, our wings will produce electricity more cheaply than a diesel-fueled generator.”


Rolf Luchsinger participated in the Business Growth course in 2015.