CRAZY WEDNESDAY: KITE WIND GENERATOR

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This great contraption looks like a mash-up of children’s toys – a wonderful merry-go-round dragged round by kites, but actually it’s a really promising idea from a group of researchers in Italy. Called the Kite Wind Generator, or KiteGen, they actually believe that it might be able to produce as much energy as a nuclear power plant.

Maybe that’s a bit hard to swallow, but on their great website it was refreshing to be able to access well written, peer reviewed papers detailing the basis of their optimism. Kites spring from the ends of long poles in response to being hit by wind, each kite having a pair of high-resistance cables that control the direction and the angle to the wind. The kites are large – about the size of a windsurfer, and are made light and strong enough to fly at up to 2,000 meters.

As the kites twirl in the wind, KiteGen’s core is set in motion, which in turn activates large alternators, which then produce electric current. the whole system is linked to a special computer which is programmed to optimise the configuration automatically 24 hours a day, enabling the most possible energy to be generated at all times. A radar system scans for any obstacles – planes for instance – and repositions the kites within seconds if anything is detected.

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Sequoia Automation, near Turin, who have developed KiteGen, have some really fascinating projections – including an output of one gigaWatt of power costing only 1.5 euros per megaWatt-hour. The current average cost in Europe for power generation is 43 euros per megawatt hour, over 30 times the estimated cost of KiteGen. As well as this, the carousel itself takes up only a fraction of the space that would be needed for conventional win turbines, and costs only 360,000 euros. If you think about it, that’s only the price of a family house in the UK – which is quite incredible for effectively an entire power station.

Sequoia expect to be able to build their first full-scale facility, probably in Italy, in about two years’ time. Unbelievable as the whole thing may sound, their website actually contains a real wealth of information, which seems pretty solid, scientifically. When I first saw it, I was sceptical, but I actually think it might work, and it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Amanda

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