The idea to use kites for wind power is nothing new, but a development at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reminds us that we haven’t even begun to tap the potential of these flying contraptions.
A recent experiment performed by a team at the university used kites to create 10 kW of energy—enough to power 10 homes. This is a not a major breakthrough in and of itself, but the researchers plan to build a larger version of the project called “Laddermill” that would create 50 kW of energy. They eventually want to build a 100 MW version of their project. If successful, the expanded project would create enough power for 100,000 homes.The kites are attached to a generator by a string. Power is created when the string is pulled and the generator turns as winds lift it into the sky.
According to Laddermill project leader Wubbo Ockels, kites are a cheap way to use energy higher up in the air, where winds carry more power due to high speeds (7 meters/sec). In contrast, turbines harvest energy closer to the ground, where wind speed is slower (5 meters/sec).
Unfortunately, Ockels predicts that the technology might not be brought to the market for a long time unless a large amount of money is made available. But if the kite generators do make it out of the lab, they may silence critics who complain about wind power’s detrimental effects on birds and scenery.