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Kite power takes flight

As well as Olympic fever, August means two things for residents of Bristol. The balloon fiesta, happening now, and the kite festival, at the end of the month. The latter is particularly important – well, in these days of health and safety, where else can you jump on a skateboard, get dragged along at 20mph and take out a small child.

The Dutch, it seems, are also keen on kites. Researchers at Delft University of Technology have successfully completed tests which suggest that kite power may become another lucrative alternative energy tool.

The experiment harnessed wind energy by flying a 10 square metre kite tethered to an electric generator. It produced enough electricity to power 10 homes – around 10kW.

Having thrown myself out of planes and been up mountains there is one thing that has always held true – wind speeds are a damn site quicker when you go higher. In fact, at an altitude of 1,000 metres, it’s estimated that wind carries hundreds of times more energy compared to ground level.

According to Celcias:

“Researchers also plan to test a 50kW version of their invention. Eventually, they hope to build a multiple kite installation which has the potential to generate 100 megawatts, enough energy to power a small city. An Italian company, Kitegen, has gone one step further and designed a theoretical system, consisting of 48 kites, which could potentially generate a gigawatt of power.”

2 Comments

  • Guillermo Mayorga
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    The higher the kite goes, the least likely the probability of the wind stopping. If it does stop, the kite comes down in a controlled pattern by shortening the string. Very easy. To get the kite up you set it up on the ground , say at a distance of 300 m. then just pull (shorten the string), in a controlled fashion, until it reaches an altitude where there
    is more wind. All done by a small fraction of the electricity stored. Remember this setup uses two strings per kite.
    More control could be reached if it used four, like the quad-line kites. The posibilites are there and most technical challenges have already been solved by kite surfers already.

    I would like to know what other challenges are currently faced. For example, how uncontrollable do kites become as the string gets very long ?
    or, does the string become so curved by gravity & wind that the curve and distance itself introduce an unbearable delay in controlling the kite ? or how would this delay behave with multiple kites controlled by multiple lines ?

    ((A note for people that don;t think this works: go fly a kite, a stunt kite and learn how it can be controlled, then think about this. ))

    I hope someone reads and answers …..

  • Peter
    Posted August 11, 2008 at 6:32 am

    What’s not to like?. But I have to pose a question, beyond the safety issue (what goes up…) These things will surely need to be located where the radius from potential damage to man, machine and each other is greater than the height they go, if only to avoid tangling), about the reliability factors.

    Like Charlie Brown, my efforts at getting a kite up, staying up and back down (if it got too gusty) have never been that successful. And certain involved a lot of kidpower on the ground.

    So if (as it surely might) the wind drops, what is the proposed procedure to get the generating mechanism back up again?

Comments are closed.

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