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East Coast windmill start-up gets funded by Alaska

Altaeros Energies - Airborne Wind Turbine Prototype 2012

Wind turbines are no strangers to Alaska's energy landscape. Increasingly, communities across the state are turning to them to help add diversity to fossil fuels and to lower costs.

By this time next year, a new type of wind turbine may be hovering in the Alaska skies -- towerless and floated inside a high-tech helium balloon to an altitude as high as 1,000 feet.

Boston-based Altaeros Energies has just landed a $740,000 grant from Alaska to give its invention a try in the 49th state. The company, founded in 2010 by former MIT and Harvard graduates, was one of several to receive funding through the state's Emerging Energy Technology Grant Fund.

"From the beginning, we thought (Alaska) would be a perfect test site," Altaeros co-founder Adam Rein said in a phone interview.

The concept seems straightforward: Raise a turbine to elevations where the wind is more powerful and sustained for a greater energy yield. Rein and his associates hope to demonstrate that their invention – the Altaeros Airborne Wind Turbine – will be less costly to install while providing a bigger return on investment than traditional land-based turbines.

Read more: Will airborne windmills revolutionize Alaska energy?