We’ve covered Kitegen before, back when it was just a theoretical idea, albeit one that holds the promise of an EROEI better than anything that can be obtained by any traditional wind or solar technologies. The KiteGen simply harnesses that rapid un-spooling motion of a kite as it reels out in the wind, so that instead of being a heavy static structure this renewable energy device is simply a light and flexible kite.
However, as the creative force behind it Ugo Bardi points out, “it’s one thing on paper, another is the reality of putting together a machine that had never been built before. It is an incredible challenge that Massimo Ippolito has taken onto himself and that he is succeeding in overcoming; step by step”.
Getting the real prototype built has been a challenge. Kitegen Research had to abandon the initial plans of building the first prototype near the town of Berzano, not far from Torino, in Italy, after almost a year of trying to persuade the local NIMBY contingent. That has generated almost one year of delay; since everything had to be moved to the new site and a completely new set of permits had to be obtained.
Bardi claims “These are NOT just kites. The kitegen is a full fledged robotic system that controls a number of kites together. It is like planes flying in formation. If planes were controlled by someone on the ground just looking up at them, flying in formation would not be possible – of course. In the case of the Kitegen, there is no pilot; the software controls the kites on the basis of the input it receives from an array of sensors and moves the kites by calculating their position in real time. So, if the Kitegen works as expected, the likely thing you’ll see is exactly what you say: many kites flying from the same hill.”
The technology that has been developed for the kitegen is impressive: it is an extremely modern approach which is based on keeping costs low by using simple and inexpensive materials. For the structural parts on the ground, the system uses only aluminium, steel and carbon fiber. Dyneema (high strength polyethylene) is used for the cables that control the kite.
The power generator is based on neodymium-boron-iron magnets. The key element of the system is its sophisticated software that controls everything and that makes it possible to use a relatively simple design. This is a typical characteristic of modern robotics and the kitegen is, actually, a robot that controls the system in real time on the basis of an array of sensors; some located on the kite, some on the ground.
Kitegen Harnesses Unspooling Motion for Energy
The kitegen plants can be spaced of a few hundred meters from each other. So the “power density” of a kite energy farm can be very high. Of course, the kites will have to fly in parallel so they are controlled by the same kind of sophisticated technology that controls Predator drones.
Bardi says “It is no amateurish stuff – it is not a madman flying a kite. It is top class sophisticated engineering. Actually, it is one of the technological revolutions of our times. Software and sensors together: it is robotics moving ahead by leaps and bounds. It is unbelievable what these things will be able to do – not just kites!”
With the results of the tests of this at-one-time fanciful idea due out in November, this could be another very good month for renewable breakthroughs!
Google Builds First Offshore Superhighway for Wind
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.