Crosswind kite power raises expectations for wind energy

A new way or harvesting wind energy using high-flying kites has been developed as an alternative to standing wind turbines.

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The technology is known as ‘crosswind kite power’, and uses kites flown in circular motions to drive a turbine, generating electricity. The kites regulate themselves using only a fraction of the energy generated to guide their movement.

Although still in its early days, the system effectively guarantees a limitless supply of energy, and has just been granted £5m in funding to begin trialling the system in a research and testing facility in Scotland this year.

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The company behind the technology is Kite Power Systems (KPS), based in Essex, and has previously received funding from the UK Department of Energy for their research that rivals traditional wind energy technology.

There are several benefits to the technology:

  • The units are smaller and easier to maintain than a traditional wind turbine
  • Due to operating at high elevations they have a reduced visual profile compared to a wind farm
  • The technology makes previously inaccessible areas of the sea suitable for development, as there is no need to construct the same sort of foundations necessary for turbines

As well as these benefits, this potential source of renewable energy is made even more attractive by the supposedly faster and more consistent wind speeds than are found closer to the surface of the earth.

According to the Iowa Energy Centre:

“Wind power is a measure of the energy available in the wind. It is a function of the cube (third power) of the wind speed. If the wind speed is doubled, power in the wind increases by a factor of eight. This relationship means that small differences in wind speed leads to large differences in power.”

By going hundreds of metres higher, this technology will be able to exploit the higher average wind speeds up in the clouds to generate more electricity.

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KPS are currently the only UK company to be exploring crosswind technology, alongside a handful of other organisations in mainland Europe including the Swiss company KitePower and the Italian firm, KiteGen.

The hope is that with the many benefits from this technology and the ability to implement it cheaply, affordable and more efficient wind-energy will become even more widely available.