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Wind Energy Kites

Published on August 5th, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

40

Kites Could Become Major Source Of Wind Power

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August 5th, 2008 by
 
Kites

The idea to use kites for wind power is nothing new, but a development at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reminds us that we haven’t even begun to tap the potential of these flying contraptions.

A recent experiment performed by a team at the university used kites to create 10 kW of energy—enough to power 10 homes. This is a not a major breakthrough in and of itself, but the researchers plan to build a larger version of the project called “Laddermill” that would create 50 kW of energy. They eventually want to build a 100 MW version of their project. If successful, the expanded project would create enough power for 100,000 homes.

The kites are attached to a generator by a string. Power is created when the string is pulled and the generator turns as winds lift it into the sky.

According to Laddermill project leader Wubbo Ockels, kites are a cheap way to use energy higher up in the air, where winds carry more power due to high speeds (7 meters/sec). In contrast, turbines harvest energy closer to the ground, where wind speed is slower (5 meters/sec).

Unfortunately, Ockels predicts that the technology might not be brought to the market for a long time unless a large amount of money is made available. But if the kite generators do make it out of the lab, they may silence critics who complain about wind power’s detrimental effects on birds and scenery.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



  • drx1

    Screw global warming, we simply need to get off of Middle Eastern oil … any oil and all oil not from the USA. If we could do that – we would be golden!

    What’s T Boon Picken’s say?

  • drx1

    Screw global warming, we simply need to get off of Middle Eastern oil … any oil and all oil not from the USA. If we could do that – we would be golden!

    What’s T Boon Picken’s say?

  • Skvikikus

    It sounds cool, and all your comments are turned toward “as it is” politics.

    Just would like to remind you of Nikola Tesla, who did experiments, and who wanted to give energy out for whole world for free.

    There is a solution, without pollution, without loss of energy, free for the planet, but it does not work for USA government.

    Check that one …. Nikola Tesla…

  • Skvikikus

    It sounds cool, and all your comments are turned toward “as it is” politics.

    Just would like to remind you of Nikola Tesla, who did experiments, and who wanted to give energy out for whole world for free.

    There is a solution, without pollution, without loss of energy, free for the planet, but it does not work for USA government.

    Check that one …. Nikola Tesla…

  • Jacob

    Brian: Hyperbole is the hallmark of the ignorant mind. Ever heard of the Keeling curve? It is in fact real. There is plenty of proof that global warming is caused by humans, there is a scientific consensus on it, but I know you’re disregarding that when you pick and choose what science you “believe.”

    Petroleum based plastics have nothing to do with global warming, if all the oil in the world was used to create lego and ikea furniture, the world wouldn’t be any worse for wear; the problem comes when you start burning it.

    Everything causes environmental damage, living in the woods eating sticks causes environmental damage, that’s a fact of existence, but there’s a big difference between the environmental damage caused by blowing up a mountain and extracting coal, transporting it to a powerplant complex, and then burning it and releasing the gas into the atmosphere and building a wind turbine. If you don’t see the logic in that, I’ll let you go back to urinating in your drinking water.

  • Jacob

    Brian: Hyperbole is the hallmark of the ignorant mind. Ever heard of the Keeling curve? It is in fact real. There is plenty of proof that global warming is caused by humans, there is a scientific consensus on it, but I know you’re disregarding that when you pick and choose what science you “believe.”

    Petroleum based plastics have nothing to do with global warming, if all the oil in the world was used to create lego and ikea furniture, the world wouldn’t be any worse for wear; the problem comes when you start burning it.

    Everything causes environmental damage, living in the woods eating sticks causes environmental damage, that’s a fact of existence, but there’s a big difference between the environmental damage caused by blowing up a mountain and extracting coal, transporting it to a powerplant complex, and then burning it and releasing the gas into the atmosphere and building a wind turbine. If you don’t see the logic in that, I’ll let you go back to urinating in your drinking water.

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  • Eric

    Millions of murders? Millions of families destroyed?

    Pretty much discredits every other number in your comment. Get off your liberal soap box and be glad that there are people willing to fight for this country.

    Anyways, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, this seems like a cool idea. Unfortunately, I don’t see it going anywhere on a large scale basis. If you think about it, the kites would have to be quite large and the rope or whatever they’re attached to quite long. This means that you would need a lot of empty space between kites to prevent tangling, thereby making a large scale power generation project based on kites largely infeasible.

  • Eric

    Millions of murders? Millions of families destroyed?

    Pretty much discredits every other number in your comment. Get off your liberal soap box and be glad that there are people willing to fight for this country.

    Anyways, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, this seems like a cool idea. Unfortunately, I don’t see it going anywhere on a large scale basis. If you think about it, the kites would have to be quite large and the rope or whatever they’re attached to quite long. This means that you would need a lot of empty space between kites to prevent tangling, thereby making a large scale power generation project based on kites largely infeasible.

  • Jim in Minn

    “The kites are attached to a generator by a string. Power is created when the string is pulled and the generator turns as winds lift it into the sky.”

    And when the kite gets to the end of the string, … what do you do, cut it loose? This is the lamest way I’ve heard of for using kites to generate electricity.

  • Jim in Minn

    “The kites are attached to a generator by a string. Power is created when the string is pulled and the generator turns as winds lift it into the sky.”

    And when the kite gets to the end of the string, … what do you do, cut it loose? This is the lamest way I’ve heard of for using kites to generate electricity.

  • http://macgecko.blogspot.com/ Greg

    While it’s interesting Im not sure how practical this solution would be.

  • http://macgecko.blogspot.com/ Greg

    While it’s interesting Im not sure how practical this solution would be.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    That’s a good point, Neal. Since that appears to be the number given by Ockels and team, perhaps they are estimating based on energy usage in the Netherlands.

  • neal

    I am a big proponent of wind power (actually many different forms of renewable generation in a diversity generating plan), so don’t take this wrong….

    The quoted figure of 10kW being enough for 10 homes is wrong by a factor of about 10, at least for a typical American home. The rule of thumb I have always heard is that a typical home in the USA needs to be factored for about 10kW in power-use calculations.

    So unless you are talking about hypothetical homes with total energy saving implemented, 10kW is enough for just one average home, not 10 homes.

    Just think: One blow dryer uses 1kW (or more!), so your 10kW == 10 homes is pretty far off the mark…..

  • neal

    I am a big proponent of wind power (actually many different forms of renewable generation in a diversity generating plan), so don’t take this wrong….

    The quoted figure of 10kW being enough for 10 homes is wrong by a factor of about 10, at least for a typical American home. The rule of thumb I have always heard is that a typical home in the USA needs to be factored for about 10kW in power-use calculations.

    So unless you are talking about hypothetical homes with total energy saving implemented, 10kW is enough for just one average home, not 10 homes.

    Just think: One blow dryer uses 1kW (or more!), so your 10kW == 10 homes is pretty far off the mark…..

  • Jim Jones

    cool. Could take the term “Go fly a kite” to a whole new meaning!

    JT

    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • Jim Jones

    cool. Could take the term “Go fly a kite” to a whole new meaning!

    JT

    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • http://www.digg.com Zero

    It’s really cool that they made 10kw of electricity, but for how long? What happens when they run out of string?

  • http://www.digg.com Zero

    It’s really cool that they made 10kw of electricity, but for how long? What happens when they run out of string?

  • bagofoats

    Uncle B, you are correct sir! Enjoying martial law by any chance?

  • bagofoats

    Uncle B, you are correct sir! Enjoying martial law by any chance?

  • Cjester66

    Considering that only 2% of America’s electricity comes from oil, I don’t understand how kite’s or windmills or even nuclear power will make any big difference in our oil dependency. The problem is OPEC, and until we break their strangle hold over oil production, we will continue to have a problem.

  • Cjester66

    Considering that only 2% of America’s electricity comes from oil, I don’t understand how kite’s or windmills or even nuclear power will make any big difference in our oil dependency. The problem is OPEC, and until we break their strangle hold over oil production, we will continue to have a problem.

  • Ion

    I call TROLL on Uncle B – go Troll somewhere else Mr. Douchebag Troll Person.

    Best way to kill a Troll – Don’t feed it

  • Ion

    I call TROLL on Uncle B – go Troll somewhere else Mr. Douchebag Troll Person.

    Best way to kill a Troll – Don’t feed it

  • netghost

    Uh huh… sounds like you Uncle B…

  • netghost

    Uh huh… sounds like you Uncle B…

  • http://www.misterinfo.de/users/erichansa erichansa

    Now’s the perfect time to become a kite runner.

  • http://www.misterinfo.de/users/erichansa erichansa

    Now’s the perfect time to become a kite runner.

  • Brian

    Please forgive my above typos. I forgot to proof read :).

  • Brian

    Please forgive my above typos. I forgot to proof read :).

  • Brian

    Uncle B: Al Gore is a complete idiot. He has openly admitted in live interviews that he fabricated or embelished greatly 100% of the “facts” he gave in his “Inconvenient Truth”.

    You really need to get off of your high horse and stop pretending you know what you are talking about. Throwing around childish insults like you just did achieves absolutely nothing.

    People need to look at the facts. There is no proof that global warming is caused by humans or pollution whatsoever. I suppose you think we should stop using petroleum based fertilizers and let the world population starve as well.

    You pretend to know what you are talking about but I bet you sued a computer that contains at least some plastic (petroleum) parts. I bet the food you eat everyday is produced using petroleum based fertilizers. I bet you have plastic (petroleum) utensils in your house. I think you get my point. Quit being a hypocrite and trying to point fingers because you are scared of the truth. You as much as I or anybody else is as much to blame for our dependance on oil. The sad part is you buy into the pure rhetoric purveyed by one Al Gore.

    Did you ever stop to ask yourself why he pushes green technology so hard to the point where he will lie to scare people into buying into it?

    Maybe you need to check out his publicly listed financial investments and realize he owns stock in almost every major green tech company in the country and even some oversees and has started an “investment fund” for these same technologies. Really interesting that the problem is “immediate” when he stands to make money from it. Your precious Al Gore is just as bad if not worse than the people you like to slam above. Maybe you should do some research into what the truth really is before you open your mouth and rant like a kindergartner.

    Next thing you know we are going to have a group of psychpaths like PETA for global warming.

    I wonder how long it will be until the lynchings start. Don’t get me wrong I think environmental awareness is important but at the same time using alarmist ranting and lying to scare people into believing the offering haphazard solutions does absolutely nothing to rasie awareness and fix the problem.

    And by the way, wind power of any type is unreliable at best not to mention a plethera of other problems with it such as the amount of energy consumed to build a turbine or the damage done to the environment when mining the materials to manufacture said turbine just to name a couple. I work in the energy production industry and again, you should understand what you are talking about before you open your mouth.

    That being said we will accomplish much more if we approach this in a sane, organized, non alarmist nature rather than having IDIOTS (yes I said idiot) like you running around hurling insults at people when you do not even know what you are talking about.

    What exactly did you accomplish above?

  • Brian

    Uncle B: Al Gore is a complete idiot. He has openly admitted in live interviews that he fabricated or embelished greatly 100% of the “facts” he gave in his “Inconvenient Truth”.

    You really need to get off of your high horse and stop pretending you know what you are talking about. Throwing around childish insults like you just did achieves absolutely nothing.

    People need to look at the facts. There is no proof that global warming is caused by humans or pollution whatsoever. I suppose you think we should stop using petroleum based fertilizers and let the world population starve as well.

    You pretend to know what you are talking about but I bet you sued a computer that contains at least some plastic (petroleum) parts. I bet the food you eat everyday is produced using petroleum based fertilizers. I bet you have plastic (petroleum) utensils in your house. I think you get my point. Quit being a hypocrite and trying to point fingers because you are scared of the truth. You as much as I or anybody else is as much to blame for our dependance on oil. The sad part is you buy into the pure rhetoric purveyed by one Al Gore.

    Did you ever stop to ask yourself why he pushes green technology so hard to the point where he will lie to scare people into buying into it?

    Maybe you need to check out his publicly listed financial investments and realize he owns stock in almost every major green tech company in the country and even some oversees and has started an “investment fund” for these same technologies. Really interesting that the problem is “immediate” when he stands to make money from it. Your precious Al Gore is just as bad if not worse than the people you like to slam above. Maybe you should do some research into what the truth really is before you open your mouth and rant like a kindergartner.

    Next thing you know we are going to have a group of psychpaths like PETA for global warming.

    I wonder how long it will be until the lynchings start. Don’t get me wrong I think environmental awareness is important but at the same time using alarmist ranting and lying to scare people into believing the offering haphazard solutions does absolutely nothing to rasie awareness and fix the problem.

    And by the way, wind power of any type is unreliable at best not to mention a plethera of other problems with it such as the amount of energy consumed to build a turbine or the damage done to the environment when mining the materials to manufacture said turbine just to name a couple. I work in the energy production industry and again, you should understand what you are talking about before you open your mouth.

    That being said we will accomplish much more if we approach this in a sane, organized, non alarmist nature rather than having IDIOTS (yes I said idiot) like you running around hurling insults at people when you do not even know what you are talking about.

    What exactly did you accomplish above?

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  • Julian

    This is a fantastic idea for harvesting wind. While I am a proponent of conventional horizontal axis turbines, this has some real potential! As the article notes–and what every sailor knows–’winds aloft’ are much stronger, and, more important, steadier, than winds on the surface owing to the influence of surface friction and structures, etc.

    No doubt this is just part of the composite solution that will fuel our energy needs and help to save the planet.

  • Julian

    This is a fantastic idea for harvesting wind. While I am a proponent of conventional horizontal axis turbines, this has some real potential! As the article notes–and what every sailor knows–’winds aloft’ are much stronger, and, more important, steadier, than winds on the surface owing to the influence of surface friction and structures, etc.

    No doubt this is just part of the composite solution that will fuel our energy needs and help to save the planet.

  • Uncle B

    Wind power, more likely by windmills will provide a large part of the answer to the energy crisis but If the U.S. had chosen to be a moral people, and leaving Iraqi oil alone, and following Al Gore, decided to develop the South Western deserts, with the technology of the times – solar/thermal-molten sodium – electricity installations, for the same amount of money as that war cost, ($650 Billion), today, we would be tapping into the largest, renewable, sustainable, energy source the world has ever known. It would have paid every energy bill in the U.S.A. for maintenance fees only – FOREVER! It would be equivalent to an oil field that can NEVER run dry! Low cost electric power, and storeable hydrogen gasoline replacement from the electricity, for all!

    After the millions of murders, and $650 billions of dollars, borrowed from our children’s futures and pissed away, with thousands of our own and others maimed and disfigured for life, millions of families utterly destroyed, ours and theirs, we are no closer to Iraqi oil production than the Iraqis are!

    The next time you hear a blithering idiot spoiled brat, drunken, drug addicted, sociopath, rich Arabic saber dancing daddie’s boy oilman, stand at a microphone and threaten YOUR safety with someone ELSE’S weapons, remember what you lost America, remember, and weep! (also see http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan)

  • Uncle B

    Wind power, more likely by windmills will provide a large part of the answer to the energy crisis but If the U.S. had chosen to be a moral people, and leaving Iraqi oil alone, and following Al Gore, decided to develop the South Western deserts, with the technology of the times – solar/thermal-molten sodium – electricity installations, for the same amount of money as that war cost, ($650 Billion), today, we would be tapping into the largest, renewable, sustainable, energy source the world has ever known. It would have paid every energy bill in the U.S.A. for maintenance fees only – FOREVER! It would be equivalent to an oil field that can NEVER run dry! Low cost electric power, and storeable hydrogen gasoline replacement from the electricity, for all!

    After the millions of murders, and $650 billions of dollars, borrowed from our children’s futures and pissed away, with thousands of our own and others maimed and disfigured for life, millions of families utterly destroyed, ours and theirs, we are no closer to Iraqi oil production than the Iraqis are!

    The next time you hear a blithering idiot spoiled brat, drunken, drug addicted, sociopath, rich Arabic saber dancing daddie’s boy oilman, stand at a microphone and threaten YOUR safety with someone ELSE’S weapons, remember what you lost America, remember, and weep! (also see http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan)

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