UK based company Kite Power Solutions is planning to use giant kites to supply renewable energy as soon as March of 2017. The company expects to open the UK’s first kite-based power plant next spring, in Stranraer, Scotland. They say they will have the capacity to produce “hundreds of megawatts” in less than a decade, claiming the technology will be much more affordable than traditional wind turbines. The company has claimed that the kite-based power would be so cheap that it would allow developing countries to move away from unsustainable, emissions-heavy energy sources.
Kite Power Solutions is planning to use the technology on land and at sea. They have tested the method on a small scale in Essex, but will be relocating to Glasgow ahead of next year’s launch.
The company uses kites to produce power, by rigging two massive, 70 square meter kites to a turbine. One kite gains altitude with the wind, soaring up to 450 meters. This movement pulls a turbine, which generates power. As that kite descends, the other one rises, giving the potential to generate power near constantly. The technology was developed cooperatively by a number of firms from around the world.
A spokesman for Kite Power Solutions said the technology would cut the cost of wind power in half, allowing wind power without government subsidies.
Observers have estimated that traditional offshore wind power would cost about 10 euro cents per kWh by 2022, forcing governments to pay the difference between that and the current wholesale energy cost, which is about 5.5 cents per kWh. Kite-based wind power has been estimated to cost as little as five cents per kWh.
The comparatively reasonable cost, along with relative ease of installation and maintenance, could allow its use to reduce rising carbon emissions in the developing world. Currently, the need to cut costs often forces developing countries to resort to high emissions power sources such as diesel, to enable growth. The company says that the lower cost of the kite-based wind power, and its ability to operate offshore in deep water, could open up a sustainable alternative for such nations.
Kites can fly higher than the heights of traditional wind turbines, where wind is often more powerful and more consistent. The company claims the system will produce 20 percent more energy than a comparable traditional wind power system.
Renewable UK, the United Kingdom’s renewable energy trade organization, expressed excitement about the technology, with some reservations. Deputy chief executive, Maf Smith, said:
“This is an ambitious project to harness wind power at extraordinary heights and it shows the level of innovation within the renewables industry. Kite power is at an early stage of development and it will be interesting to see how the technology progresses. We will need a wide range of energy sources in the future to meet our needs in a sustainable way.”
Bill Gates has stated that kite power has a “10 percent chance” of turning into the “magic solution” for renewable energy around the world.