“Engineers Are Creating Kites With Rotors to Generate Energy at Higher Altitudes“
Some readers jumped on me before but I still think there could be application for this technology for disaster relief. One of the hardest things to do with field hospitals in disaster zones is keep them supplied with power. It should be possible to create kits that can be air-dropped in so that if you can get emergency personnel to the site you can get at least limited power there. Fully aware that plenty will have different opinions I’m going to say I can see situations where this technology could be useful – no, I still don’t see wind as a generally-useful baseload energy supply.
As wind powers an increasing amount of electricity generation, entrepreneurs are hoping to replace modern windmills with a high-tech version of an even older technology: kites.
Winds are stronger and more consistent at higher altitudes, but building a 100-story-tall turbine isn’t cost effective. So engineers are working on using kites to send aloft power generators that create energy when mounted rotors are spun by the wind; they transmit electricity through the cables that tie them to the earth as a string tethers a child’s kite.
Among the companies building prototypes are KiteFarms LLC in Kilauea, Hawaii; Joby Energy in Santa Cruz, Calif.; and Kite Gen in Torino, Italy, as well as a couple university-based consortia in Europe. Further along in commercializing the technology appears to be Makani Power Inc., in Alameda, Calif., which says it has built one model capable of generating 30 kilowatts of electricity, enough for about 20 average U.S. homes. Makani, which is partly backed by Google Inc., is also working on a portable kite-in-a-box for the Army to deploy during disaster-relief operations.
Some kite-power developers say that they were inspired by kite-boarding, a sport where people on modified surfboards holds large kites to propel them over the waves. “You are cruising along with your kite and realize you replaced a 100-horsepower motor boat,” said Robert Lumley, the founder of KiteFarms, which recently got financing to develop a prototype kite.