Will High Altitude Kites Replace Wind Turbines?

Could stunt kites be the future of energy? Could high altitude kites replace the tried-and-true wind turbine?

A Berlin-based wind energy developer is betting YES. NTS GmbH is attempting to harness the wind with high flying kites and convert the captured energy into electricity.

NTS GmbH realized that while stunt kites are used for extreme sports, they also have tremendous power that can be harnessed for other purposes. A wind surfer can be carried into the air many meters on a kite, and the higher the surfer’s initial jump into the air the higher the wind carries the kite.

The company extrapolated this observation and created a kite power station. These kites fly between 300 and 500 meters into the sky and can be caught by very strong winds. Cables that are 700 meters long are tethered to both the kite and a vehicle on the ground on rails that moves along a track. The result is that kinetic energy from the moving vehicles is converted into energy.

These data are encouraging because the height at which a kite can fly is far greater than the height of a wind turbine. This height allows the kite to generate considerably more kinetic energy. For instance, a wind turbine rotor has a maximum height of 200 meters. Doubling the wind speed by going higher up using a kite increases the energy by a factor of 8.

Successful test flights and simulations have demonstrated that an NTS track with 24 kites has the ability to generate up to 120 gigawatt hours a year. Conversely, a wind turbine only produces 4 gigawatt hours a year. Could kites be the future of alternative energy? Possibly. Time will tell.

[via Oil Price]

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