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Kite Power: A New Source of Wind Energy

22 Mar 2011  |   Daniel Jacobs

The thought of kite flying traditionally brings to mind a relaxing leisure activity, or even to some, an image of Benjamin Franklin experimenting with electricity.But some companies, like KitGen and Makani Power, endeavor to utilize kite technology in order to produce wind power.

The concept of employing kite technology to create wind energy is enormously innovative and scientifically practicable.Wind speeds high above the earth's surface greatly exceed the gusts we experience on the ground.In fact, wind moves much faster and steadier at altitudes of 100 feet than on Earth's surface, and at 600 to 700 feet, wind moves twice as fast as it does at 200 feet.

Modern wind generators, which provide today's means for harnessing wind power, only reach as high as 150 to 200 feet.This limits their ability to produce significant amounts of energy, as low wind speeds leave turbines idle for long periods of the day.A high flying kite on the other hand, can rein in the energy produced by constant wind speeds in the higher reaches of our atmosphere.

The Italy-based KiteGen aims to develop a self-piloting kite that flies continuously day and night, while generating wind energy.

KiteGen has already flown 1,000 hours with its C-shaped kite, and uses its "Stem" configuration to store and transfer electricity to power grids.The kite can fly as high as the jet stream at an altitude of 1.25 miles, staying clear of air traffic and receiving steady wind gusts of up to 20 miles per hour.

An American company, Makani Power, has developed Airborne Wind Turbines (AWT) to extract energy from powerful winds at high altitudes. With a solid foundation of private investors and federal grants from the Department of Energy, Makani ventures to use its AWT design to produce energy at an unsubsidized, inexpensive cost that competes with dirty coal-fired plants.

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