Wind power should play a key role in the green energy transition. And it looks like kites, or airborne wind power (AWE), could play a part in that model.
There are two main ways kites can be used to generate power.
One is to attach a generator directly to the soft wing kite and allow the power to be directed to the ground via a cable.
Another method is to set up ground stations that generate power and collect it from the kites as they descend.
A third option was explored by Google, led by Makani Technologies, in 2013, involving a hard-winged kite with generators and turbines on board. Although this option produced power more consistently, Google dropped the idea in 2020, although Shell expressed interest in further research and testing.
Traditional wind turbines do not always offer the most efficient solutions. Although they are a green source of energy and more cost effective in the long run, land use, noise, infrastructure issues, and aesthetic pollution are common issues that come into the debate. The destructive effect on flora and fauna has also been a cause for concern.
Kites could provide a solution to some of the infrastructural and environmental challenges posed by wind farms.
Kite power is also much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.since it requires less material.
The AWE requires much less hardware than the Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT) to produce the same amount of electricity. The normalized mass of material over the 20 year life of the AWE system is 30% of the HAWT. This includes spare parts such as straps or batteries.
Airborne Wind Europe.
Florian Bauer, co-CEO and CTO of Kitekraft, is a strong proponent of kite power and has produced a report that expands on the technology and business challenges and demonstrates the safety of kite power as well as its impact on wildlife and aesthetic pollution. When challenges are overcome, kite energy could be a powerful partner to conventional wind energy, especially in remote areas. But a 2021 report from the Wind Energy Technology Office (WETO) confirms that AWE has quite a few technology hurdles to overcome.
Today, some small companies market the power of the kite.
SkySails has sold AWE to Mauritius, the Norwegian company Kitemill is working on a megawatt scale kite power system, and Kitepower, based in the Netherlands, works in the Caribbean. The Swedish team Minesto is also developing underwater kites, which use ocean currents to harvest energy. So, aside from the technological hurdles, there are exciting developments in the interest of diversifying and expanding our green energy network.
More information: skysails-power.com