High Altitude Wind Power

Timlynn Babitsky | Thinking Forward,Wind Innovations,Wind Videos | Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

by Timlynn Babitsky
Tapping into the jet stream for unending, reliable wind power is no science fiction fantasy. Researchers from the Netherlands, the UK, the US, and Italy are all flying kites to capture that power. And, Google invested $10m last year in US kite company, Makani Power. The higher you go, the better the wind, but can kites really capture wind power? 
Delft University’s Laddermill project is already showing success. With a 10 square meter kite and generator, researchers generated enough electricity to power 10 homes. Their long range plans are to generate enough power for 100,000 homes with multiple kites tapping into the jet stream. Why kites?

Even with the height of modern day wind turbines, it is just not possible to build turbines tall enough to tap wind at very high altitudes. But kites could easily reach these heights and tap into the steady flow of wind above us. For space, or low-level wind constrained countries like the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark, flying kites to tap the high-speed jet stream directly above them is an exciting opportunity for them to participate in the wind power market.

‘Pretty much anywhere in the UK you could run a kite plant economically, but you couldn’t run a wind turbine economically,’ said Allister Furey of the University of Sussex.

Just how quickly will kite technology make it to market?  Well, that depends on how much investors are willing to put into the various projects already underway. 
Professor Wubbo Ockels, who leads the Laddermill project believes that commercial systems could be operational within five years if the money were available. But without significant funding behind it the technology could languish in the labs at Delft, Stanford, Sussex, Hawaii’s Makani Power, and Italy’s Kitegen for a decade or more to come.

Click here to read more about kites and high altitude wind.

 Click here to watch the video as Dutch scientists demonstrate their electric kite

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