Kite Power Solutions expects to open the UK’s first kite power plant in March 2017 at the Ministry of Defence’s West Freugh site in Stranraer, Scotland. If all goes well, huge kites could well be The Great Green Energy Miracle that we all have been hoping for, supplying clean energy without subsidies within a matter of years. The energy firm hopes to roll out the technology onshore as well as offshore, building systems with the capacity to produce “hundreds of megawatts” of power within the decade.
The company believes that the technology, developed by a handful of firms around the world, could significantly cut existing costs of conventional turbine based wind energy production plants. It could also, according to the designers, be so effective financially that it would soon become a major alternative to petrol and other highly polluting fossil fuels in developing countries, which face a critical problem in capital investment and maintenance expenditure when it comes to renewable energy.
The technology involves rigging two giant kites, each up to 70 square metres, to either side of a turbine. The first kite rises with the wind, up to a height of 450 metres, moving in a figure-of-eight pattern. The movement pulls a rope that turns a turbine, generating power. As one kite descends, the other rises in tandem, meaning that electricity can be generated almost constantly, as the kites rise and fall in altrernation.
A spokesman for Kite Power Solutions said the technology could halve the cost of offshore wind energy, dispensing with the need for governments subsidies. Ainsworth said the technology was easy to install and maintain, meaning it could be deployed in deep water, on floating structures far from shore. “If we do that, it opens up a whole new global deepwater offshore wind market,” he said. The technology could curb rising CO2 emissions in the developing world, where the need to save money forces people to resort to polluting technologies such as diesel, Ainsworth said.
The technology has been tested on a small scale in Essex and the company will move its headquarters to Glasgow in readiness for next year’s launch. It has won planning permission for a 500kW demonstration system but plans to build a 3MW power station after that and is identifying other sites to develop.
A 3MW system would be comparable in power to smaller wind turbines but will be able to generate 20% more energy, as claimed by the company. It will also be less than 20% of the weight of a conventional horizontal axis wind turbine, which is made partly out of steel. The kite can fly higher than the tip of a wind turbine, reaching heights where wind tends to be stronger and more consistent, hence becoming more profitable and reliable.
The UK’s green energy trade body, RenewableUK, welcomed the technology but warned that it was not a silver bullet. The deputy chief executive, Maf Smith, said: “This is an ambitious project to harness wind power at extraordinary heights and it shows the level of innovation within the renewables industry. Kite power is at an early stage of development and it will be interesting to see how the technology progresses. We will need a wide range of energy sources in the future to meet our needs in a sustainable way.”
Kite Power Solutions has received funding from the former Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund along with private backers. Its largest shareholders are Kite Power Solution’s chief executive, Bill Hampton, and chief operating officer, John Hardy.
Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has said that there is a 10% chance kite power could be the “magic solution” for global renewable energy needs. As for us, let’s wait and see which way the winds flow.
Source: The Guardian