Kite surfers inspire new wind-energy tech

November 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

19 hrs.

Fraunhofer IPA

A kite surfing inspired wind power system makes its maiden voyage at a test site in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany.

Adrenaline junkies long ago learned that flying a kite with surf and snow boards strapped to their feet is an awesome way to get their fix. Now, energy companies are looking to harness the source of the fun — high altitude wind — to generate electricity.

The concept of kite power has been floating around for a few years based on the data-backed premise that winds are stronger and more consistent 1,000 to 1,500 feet off the ground than they are at 500 feet, which is about as high as the tallest traditional wind turbines reach.

Devices built to harness that high-altitude wind hold the promise of greater operational reliability and efficiency as well as lower materials cost per megawatt of electricity generated.

Some approaches generate the electricity in the air, such as the airborne wind turbines from Google-backed Makani Power and MIT spinoff Altaeros Energies

This week, Berlin-based wind energy developer NTS GmbH and the Fraunhofer Institute revealed details of a scheme to use a 215-square-foot kite to pull a vehicle along a train track. A generator converts the kinetic energy of the vehicle into electricity.

Automated measuring and control mechanisms on the vehicle are being designed to steer the kite in either a figure-eight or sine-wave flight path that can generate enough power to pull a vehicle that weighs one ton, according to a Fraunhofer.

To date, the system has been tested on 1,300-foot-long straight track as the kite was remotely controlled. Future automated versions will be on a loop track.

Simulations of the technology suggest 24 kites could generate 120 gigawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to supply power to around 30,000 homes. The partners said they have attracted earlier investors and are at work turning the concept into reality.

 via Gizmag 

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.

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