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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Giant Kites Could Power 100,000 Homes

While pondering how to capture wind energy, scientists from the Netherlands went out and flew a giant kite. The 10-sq-meter kite was tethered to a generator and managed to produce 10 kW. With the success of this kite, they’re planning to test a 50 kW version of the kite, dubbed Laddermill, and if that succeeds, they’re proposing a multi-kite version that could get as much as 100 MW - enough for 100,000 homes.

The kite generates energy by pulling on its string on the way up. When it gets to the end of the string, it’s pulled back down and then sent back up for another flight. The amount of energy captured is maximized by flying the kite in figure eights, and bringing it down in a fall like a glider plane.

If you’re thinking, “Now, this I gotta see,” then you can watch this video. It really is pretty cool. And considering how easily the kite takes off in the strong wind – no running, jumping, or Peter-Pan-wishful-thinking involved – I can imagine that a whole lot of power could be generated. Google thinks so too, having invested $10 million in a US kite project last year. Actually, we know of a lot of people are working on generating wind power from kites – or like-flying objects – even on a commercial scale.

Wind higher than about a kilometer above the ground carries about 100 times more energy than wind at tower level, so finding a cheap way to harness it – like kite flying – could be a big breakthrough for wind power. Countries like the UK, Netherlands, and Denmark are perfect for this type of wind power generation, being located next to the high-speed jet stream.

The Netherlands scientists believe they could generate power comparable to the price of coal, and 50% cheaper than wind turbines. Now, like most all renewable energy endeavors, all these various researchers simply need the funding to back the projects. Hopefully investors will look at Google and pull a monkey-see-monkey-do.

Read on

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