8 Votes | Average: 4.5 out of 58 Votes | Average: 4.5 out of 58 Votes | Average: 4.5 out of 58 Votes | Average: 4.5 out of 58 Votes | Average: 4.5 out of 5 (8 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5) Loading ... Loading ...

by Mike Zazaian October 10, 2006 - 3:33pm, 11 Comments

Italian researchers are developing a wind-powered generator called KiteGen that uses kites instead of propellers, theoretically producing as much energy as a nuclear power plant

Developed by Sequoia Automation, the KiteGen deploys kites from metal poles when a sizable wind approaches. After deployment each kite, similar to those used in Kite surfing, uses a pair of high-tension cables to adjust height and angle for maximum wind resistance. After the Kites set the KiteGen in motion an alternator at the core of the device harnesses current in a very efficient manner.

It’s been called revolutionary, but I see it as part of a new energy future, said Massimo Ippolito, head of R&D for Sequoia. With the right mix of photovoltaic, solar thermal power, plus wind power from KiteGen, we can try to meet the needs for rising global electricity consumption.

The KiteGen improves upon inefficient windmill systems that use a single propeller to generate energy. Unlike these static generators, the dynamic movement of the KiteGen’s kites allow it to use an autopilot-like system to adjust to wind conditions in order to achieve the highest possible speed, and therefore the greatest output. The efficiency of the system would be so great, in fact, that Sequoia estimates KiteGen could produce one gigawatt of power for just 1.5 euros per megawatt hour. Were it able to achieve these theoretical figures, KiteGen would be nearly 30 times more efficient than other European energy production techniques, which which cost about 43 euros per megawat hour. Sequoia believes it can produce a working model of the KiteGen within two years.

But even with the promise that the project has shown, Italian pundits and lawmakers alike are a bit dubious about the future of KiteGen. Invasion of air space seems to be an especially touchy matter, as KiteGen’s kites, which can fly higher than a mile above the ground, could interfere with the flight paths of planes, helicopters, or even birds. Said Luciano Pirazzi, an energy expert for the Italian government agency ENEA:

It’s a fascinating project, for the amount of power it promises and the low cost. But — and there are a series of buts — it is still basically a concept on the drawing board. Feasibility has to be proven.

Sequoia is acommodating for the concern with the development of a radar system that would detect such flying objects, automatically moving KiteGen’s kites out of the way. Were the project a success, KiteGen could help Italy meet standards set by the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which require that the country run on at least 22 percent renewable energy by 2010.

[via Wired]