Once you start using power kites, you will notice that kites have lots
of energy, much more than any other traditional wind power devices
(traditional windmill or wind turbine).
Wind power has been proven in
the recent decades to be one of the most promising and popular sources of
clean energy using traditional devices. So why not kite energy?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Kite Energy Systems
Many have thought just that in the last couple of years and have
discovered that kites have lots more potential than traditional wind power
Kites fly higher, therefore have more consistent and cleaner wind
Kites do not require massive supporting base tower and platform
Kites can fly across the wind window to generate even more power than
the wind can provide
Multiple kites can be easily stacked for more power
However, kite power generation systems do have their own disadvantages:
Kites require launching (after installation/maintenance and after a
no wind period) and landing (in case of thunder storm or hurricane).
Wind turbine towers have the same lightning problem during thunderstorm
but they do shut off in case of strong wind during hurricane (modern
wind turbines normally shut off when the wind reaches 90 km/hr and the
whole structure can survive hurricane wind up to 220 km/hr, top range of
Category 3 hurricane wind speed)
Regulation and safety issues for high flying kites:
Not deployable within 5 miles radius of an airport
Need Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) from FAA
Need lighting every 50 feet along its tether
For self-floating kite, need Rapid Deflation Devices that can
bring the kite down in case of escape from mooring
Skywindpower is promoting the Flying Electric Generator (FEG), Magenn is
prototyping the Magenn Power Air Rotor System (MARS), Sequoia Automation is
introducing the Kite Generator and Briza Technology is aiming for the
Hovering Wind Turbine Technolgoy.
Furthermore, there was the Laddermill
project introduced in 2003 but apparently there is no new development since
Sky WindPower Flying Electric Generator
The Sky WindPower Flying Electric Generator (FEG) is more a flying helicopter than a kite.
It rotating rotors help to fly the FEG and at the same time generate
electricity. The power efficiency will be divided between
supporting the kite and generating power. Furthermore, as the rotor is
somewhat inclined, its "effective" swept area is less than that of a comparable wind
turbine. The FEG, however, similar to a helicopter, can fly at high
altitude and should be able to offer more consistent and more efficient
energy than a comparable wind turbine.
The Magenn MARS is more a blimp than a kite. It is lighter than air
and therefore can float during no-wind periods. Once launched, the MARS
does not have to be landed nor re-launched unless during thunderstorm or hurricane.
Its body rotate upward creating additional lift (magnus effect) during
periods with windy periods. This is the similar principle used in UFO kites. The
rotation of the body can then be used to create electricity as shown in this
video posted on Youtube.com:
MARS is in its early prototype stage and an early prototype
is shown flying in this video posted on Youtube.com:
As stated by Magenn on their web site, "Magenn Air
Rotors are 50% as efficient as the best propeller rotors, in terms of their
wind intercepted area"; However, as MARS is very scalable, more
flexible and can fly at higher altitude than wind turbines, it can offer much better efficiency economic especially in larger
Kite Generator is a very
interesting concept which has a closer root to kitesurfing than any other
devices. It is actually make use of the power of the kite diving
flying across the power zone to turn a horizontal structure similar to a
merry-go-round (turning around a vertical axis) to create electricity.
The kite flying zone is determine by the position of the kite attachment
point (on the merry-go-round) while it rotates around the axis. The
positions are divided into 3 zones: left pull zone, right pull zone and
neutral zone. While the kite is in the left pull zone, it will fly on
the left side of the wind window to turn the merry-go-round.
Similarly, the kite will fly in the right wind window to turn the
merry-go-round when it is in the right pull zone. When the kite is in
neutral zone, it must be kept in neutral, depowered mode such that it would
not interfere with the pull of the other kites on the merry-go-round.
One would need a very sophisticated control system to manipulate all these
kite flying exercises; however, the trade off is the ability to harness the
full power of the wind window which in turn will be able to generate much more
electricity than the traditional wind turbines of comparable cost.
The following video posted on Youtube.com shows the operation of the Kite Generator:
Similar to other kite energy devices, there are issues involve with the
sophistication of the control of the kites and the launching and landing of the kites
after periods of no wind or during thunder storms or hurricanes; however,
Kite Generator has lots of potential as it is currently the only energy
device that can harness the whole wind window power zone.
The Hovering Wind Turbine from Briza Technologies is basically a series
of wind turbines (Darrieus turbines with horizontal axis) with blimps
situating in the wind shadow area of the turbines to keep the whole
structure float during no wind periods.
The Hovering Wind Turbine is very
similar to the Magenn MARS with the exception that the turbines and the
blimps are not fully integrated as the case of the MARS and therefore need
heavy frame to integrate the two structures. The advantage is that the
blimps are behind the turbines and therefore have less drag.
Until we have a kite energy product in full operations, the jury is still
out whether kite energy is as proven as wind turbine. To be more
competitive than the current wind turbine and be practical, a kite energy solution should
have one or more of the following characteristics:
The kite should float (like the Magenn MARS and the Hovering Wind
Turbine) such that no landing
nor re-launching is needed during the no-wind periods. This allows
it to operate in an un-supervised fashion similar to wind turbine.
The kite should make use the full power of the wind window (like the
Kite Generator). This would make it much more competitive than the
current wind turbine.
The kite should be "lightning safe" such that it does not need to be
landed each time there is a thunderstorm. While a wind turbine
does have similar lightning risk as kites, it is normally lower so has
The kite energy system should be able to accommodate very strong wind
(up to 120 km/hr, top range of tropical storm wind speed) during tropical storms (a somewhat frequent
occurrence) such that it only
needs to be landed for winds more than 120 km/hr during hurricanes
(rarer occurrence). Check
http://www.friesian.com/wind.htm for the details of the various wind
ranges. Also check
http://www.zephyreco.co.jp/en/main_pro_airdolphin.htm for a modern
wind turbine that can operate up to 50 m/s wind speed (180 km/hr or top
range of Catergory 2 hurricane wind speed) and
there are talks about floating wind turbines that can handle hurricane
Please note that even thought modern wind turbines can survive category
3 hurricanes, most may be damaged in category 4 and especially category
5 hurricanes (such as Katrina). In the case of a kite, just land
it and store it away for the duration of the hurricane.
Related Kite Energy Technology
This technology could be useful to support the heavy
cable to conduct electricity from the kite down to earth (a video posted on Youtube.com)
Let us know if you know of any other kite energy
or related products.
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