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Floating power plants
Floating power plants
Magenn, Kanata, Ontario

What if a blimp could generate electricity? That's the idea behind the Magenn Air Rotor System, or MARS. Once it ascends to between 400 and 1,000 feet, where the wind runs strong and steady, the dirigible-like MARS starts rotating and generating electricity that travels through cables to the ground.

Founded: 1978

Technology: The MARS is made of a Dacron-like proprietary material encased in a high-tension net and inflated with helium. As the blimp's rotor blades begin to spin, they activate generators that transmit power to the ground via a tether made of Vectran, a polymer stronger than steel. The MARS is mobile and can be deflated and redeployed in locations off the grid.

Energy production/savings: A 30- by 57-foot prototype generated two kilowatts of electricity earlier this year, enough for one house.

Stage of development: A ten- or 25-kilowatt version will be tested with Magenn's first customer in 2009.

Reality check: More work must be done to determine how larger versions of the MARS will perform at higher altitudes.

NEXT: Kiting in the jet stream
Last updated October 15 2008: 8:45 AM ET
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