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Video | Could kite power replace the humble wind turbine?

Kites on an industrial scale are going to give offshore wind farms a run for their money according to a British company which has just embarked on its first funding round for £10M to further develop its product.

Kite Power Solutions has designed a kite-based energy generating system which it said could be used in deep water offshore locations where better wind conditions exist that are out of reach for traditional wind turbines.

It claims that the new technology has the potential to transform the offshore wind market and to be easier to manufacture than conventional wind turbines that use large quantities of steel.

Kite Power Solutions founder and chief executive Bill Hampton said: “We will be able to compete with offshore wind and without subsidies by removing tonnes of steel from every MWh produced offshore. 

“Quite simply, by removing the steel from clean energy you make it lighter per MW and thus cheaper, and with a lower carbon footprint.”

The system comprises two 49.5m long, 10m wide kites, which are attached to a winch via a man-made fibre tether between 500m and 750m length. These generate electricity as they alternately, rapidly spool out from a drum around 90 times an hour, just under 1M times a year. The lines are wound in with a process which uses less energy than is generated.

The company said that the base station of the 3MW system had a life span of around 25 years, however the kites would need to be replaced more frequently.

Kite Power Solutions business development director David Ainsworth said that the kites’ components and materials had been tested by an independent body and that a 20kW demonstration system was operational at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

“In the kite we have two-way and three-way joints where different sections of cut fabric are joined together, we have conducted fatigue and ultimate tensile strength testing of these ,” he said.

Dismissing the potential for the cables to become tangled, Ainsworth said: “No, each base station is spaced at a similar distance to an offshore wind turbine array. While two kites fly off one base station, they flight in left and right hand sides of a hemisphere, so they don’t overlap.”

The company is in talks with investors to raise £10M. One of the things it hopes to use this for is to build a complete 100kW scale demonstrator and put it through its paces with an endurance test running 24 hours a day, seven days a week at a site identified in Scotland.

It is aiming to deploy its first 3MW power system in offshore waters by 2019.

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