What if you could literally extract energy from the sky? Several kite power companies are attempting and succeeding in this endeavour.
They claim that the new technology has numerous advantages.
“It’s less expensive to manufacture, less expensive to transport, and more efficient,” Ars Technica reports. Florian Bauer is the co-CEO and CTO of Kitekraft, a Munich-based company developing a kite power system. He claims that the carbon footprint is also much smaller. “With all of those benefits, why would anyone build a conventional wind turbine?”
How airborne wind works
How does the technology known as airborne wind work? KiteMill, one such company, describes the process in three steps:
- The kite
The kite is a special designed aircraft made of composite materials. It has a rigid structure and is built to withstand high-speed winds. It has the shape of a sailplane and only requires four propellers for takeoff and landing. Once in the air, the kite stays aloft by gliding effortlessly on air currents. The kite is designed to move quickly and easily while adding a high tractive force on the tether.
- The tether
The kite is attached to the ground by a tether. This tether transfers the kite’s pull force to the ground-station generator. It is made of braided polyethylene fibres chosen for their unique endurance capabilities. These, in turn, provide the smallest diameter for the tether, which is critical for obtaining energy from kite turbines. The tether’s material is durable and can withstand exposure to various environmental conditions such as moisture & UV light.
- The ground station
The ground station converts tractive force from tether to electricity. This electricity is then fed into the power grid. The generator is connected to a winch in the ground station, which reels in and out the kite. The control system, which is also located in the ground station, ensures the effectiveness and safety of every flight. It ensures optimal energy production by controlling the kite and the winch. Sensors mounted on the aircraft provide data points for the control system to steer & balance the aircraft. The control system enables the autonomous operation of Kitemill’s entire solution and the subsequent energy production.
Not yet sufficiently developed
Airborne wind is still in its infancy, and if it is to progress further, it will have to over come many hurdles that it is safe and reliable, and that it does not cause noise pollution.
Currently, none of the kite companies have produced enough energy to compete with other renewable energy sources in megawatt scale. This doesn’t meanthat they won’t.
The technology is based on sound scientific principles and has a bright future. Could we soon be flying kites to power our lives?