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October 22, 2006

Kite Power

artist illustration of kite power generator

While there's been growing interest in wind-power as a means to generate electricity, there's been surprisingly little research in how to capture the energy of the wind... pretty much everyone agrees that large, fixed, rotating blade systems are the way to go. But are there alternative methods?

Some Italian researchers think so. A company called Sequoia Automation has come up with an idea called the Kite Generator (KiteGen for short) that uses a bunch of mile-high kites tethered to a merry-go-round like contraption on the ground. Each kite's angle to the wind can be precisely and continuously controlled...kites in the downwind phase of their orbit are tilted to catch as much wind as possible, in the upwind phase they tilt down to easily slip forward.

A kite-driven carousel the size of a football field could generate half a gigawatt of power, and for about 1/30th the current cost of electricity in Europe (the researchers recently published a paper in the IEEE journal with the technical details. Here's a pdf). The researchers also say the kites can be quickly retracted if the winds die, or if there's an oncoming airplane.

Wired News had a piece on the kite generator earlier this month.


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at October 22, 2006 06:57 AM