Can the World’s Largest Plane Save Wind Power?

The WindRunner is massive.

Offshore wind power projects set up shop in the water because it’s often too much of a logistical nightmare to transport their massive turbine blades inland. But that could change in the future if one startup is successful in building the world’s largest plane.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, offshore wind turbines can be as much as one-and-a-half times the height of the Washington Monument and feature blades the length of a football field. That’s specifically why Mark Lundstrom, an aerospace engineer, and his company, Radia, is building the WindRunner, a massive plane that’s also the length of a football field. If completed, the WindRunner will be the largest plane in the world in terms of length and cargo capacity.

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Using the WindRunner to bring huge offshore blades to onshore sites could help construct wind power installations that reach 300 feet higher than the average, according to the Wall Street Journal. That extra size would translate to increased power production and an overall boost to the wind power industry.

Radia’s WindRunner would be about 356 feet in length with a 262-foot wingspan and tires about as tall as an adult’s shoulders. It would require a special 6,000-foot runway to be constructed for each project and it would have to deliver a lot of huge components to assemble a profitable operation.

It’s an ambitious project but one that Rachel Kelley, former director of engineering at Boeing and Radia’s vice president of aircraft development, says makes a lot more sense than alternatives. That includes trying to tow them on enormous trailers or using other forms of aircraft like helicopters and blimps.

There are potential roadblocks, like getting communities to sign off on wind power projects that would be much more visible than a lot of what’s currently out there. But if Radia’s vision becomes reality, the company hopes the towering inland wind farms it helps create could cut the cost of energy by as much as 35%.

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