Wind power holds great promise as a clean energy source, but current windmill generators aren’t appropriate for all locations. Italian firm Kite Gen hopes to change that with its innovative new generator designs, which use “kites” to capture strong high-altitude winds.
The Kite Gen concept is simple: large controllable “kites” are drawn upward to altitudes around 800 meters, where average wind speeds are much greater than near the ground where current windmill designs reside. As these remotely controlled airfoils rise, their tethers power turbines on the ground while also maintaining control over their flight path. After reaching their maximum height, the kites are flown back down to ground level as motorized spools gather the tether. The retrieval phase requires only a small fraction of the power that is generated during the flight.
Potential advantages of the Kite Gen system include cheaper building and installation costs, since the design essentially eliminates the need for much of the physical structure of a conventional windmill. The system could also provide wind-based power in areas where traditional wind farms are impractical because of terrain or land use limitations. Finally, Kite Gen promises that the system is environmentally friendly, since it avoids most wildlife interference problems faced by traditional windmills.
Kite Gen’s first prototype was built in 2006 and has enjoyed successful testing. The first full-scale system is a 3MW generator being installed near Asti, Italy, which is expected to begin operating in late 2009. Proposed future systems include off-shore generators, and “carousel” arrays of multiple kites that could theoretically produce over 1GW of power output.
For more information, visit the Kite Gen website.