Kites on a Carousel
Massimo Ippolito is an Italian engineer with broad technological research and development experience and he is the founder of Kitegen, based in Turin. He had noticed the huge energy caught by high flying kites and, working in the development of robotic systems, an idea developed with him over time, and has brought forth one of the technological revolutions of our age, what should be world-changing designs.
As part of a highly sophisticated control system, Ippolito has developed a kite-flying robot hand, informed by a combination of software and an array of avionic sensors on the kites and sensors on the ground. The robot hand has multiple kites whizzing around in precise predictive patterns, always maximising yield of energy, never crashing into another kite or getting their lines tangled. The Kitegen systems are actually kite-flying robots, guiding these tethered birds over predefined flight paths.
Kitegen have two main concepts, the Stem and the Carousel. The Stem is much the simpler, like a fishing rod with a thrashing fish on a line, but the fish is high in the sky. A single kite soars away, its energy captured and generated into electricity. When it reaches the top of its climb, its shape and configuration are changed, and it dives back to its starting position with very little energy expended. The rod rocks back and forth. It works like a two-cylinder engine, except that the power phase would be 90% of the action with a fast return to the beginning of the phase.
Even a simple Stem installation like this would be worth considerable generation, this is a 3 MW model.
We find the Stem grows in beauty with familiarity. We can imagine Stems built on top of high buildings. Stems actually seem like something that could be put in public parks, it would be an excellent attraction. A power station in a public park that sold tea and cakes. We can readily imagine them in public spaces. Cows could happily graze in a kite park, crops could happily grow.
This is a nice film of the Stem.
This is a larger Stem configuration. . .
It Iooks like Kitegen were thinking about a public park in this one.
This one is obviously many Megawatts more than the simple one, but with the more elaborate Carousel the power numbers start to be expressed in GigaWatts, which are strategic amounts of generation. More about measurement of power and context further on, because these wattages are confusing.
In the Carousel – which, charmingly, like the Stem, is an absurd looking contraption – a squadron of power kites stay aloft flying their set aerobatic routines and pulling a turbine around a circular rail.
They look low in altitude in this picture, maybe just to get them in the picture. In operation, they would be high in the sky performing their perfect figure-of-8 routines.
The power kites used by Kitegen are mass-producible, sure to be printable.
The following really does sound like fairyland, particularly so that it’s kites, but the world will see: 20 of these power kites soaring around high in the sky can rotate a 1,600 metre diameter turbine at 15 revolutions per hour, and that generates around a Gigawatt! What that translates to is that in the space taken up by a medium sized nuclear power station, this could be matched by a Carousel and its power kites, and for an estimated capital investment at least 10 times lower, and much, much, much less if all the costs were fully accounted. And much, much prettier and a lot more fun. It would be really cool if they would be lit up at night, it would be clearer to see exactly what was going on.
Drawing power from a cubic kilometre of sky, just about anywhere in the world, Kitegen’s Carousel will harvest a Gigawatt. The amounts of power harvested are so great that no country would have to do very much of it. Kites are very likely it.
And the Carousel is upwardly scaleable, and cheaply so. Once the plant is built, it’s just a question of adding easily assembled modules to it. Then, with expansion of the radius there is exponential growth in power. As the circular path is expanded, the area swept by the kites, and therefore the total return of energy, increases to the square, and the topmost kites are now reaching into higher and yet stronger winds. A 100 MW Carousel is calculated to deliver electricity at less than €0.03 per kWh, but that’s only the beginning. The 100 MW site can soon become a 1000 MegaWatt, or 1 GigaWatt, site. We’re certain the GigaWatt sites will be built one day soon, it’s surely irresistible.
Up through the heights to the very strongest winds, taking it to the limit of the sky, the theoretical maximum Carousel would be something like a ring about 16 miles radius, maybe like a railway viaduct, around which travels a Maglev Kite Gen. The power kites would now be touching the Stratosphere six miles up, moving in their dynamic and intricate formations, and now generating more than 60 GigaWatts. That’s enough GigaWatts for Britain at the moment. That’s a theoretical model, and a truly breathtaking one. But for now, the power of the wind a mile high is more than enough to be going on with.
As a dreamy indulgence, we can imagine a Carousel being raised on pillars and built right in the midst of cities. There will be people who would love to live in a neighbourhood underneath a Carousel and its swooping birds. And that would be more than enough electricity for the city. The district would have to be a no-fly zone, but, anyway, there’s plenty of places to build a Carousel, and it really doesn’t matter where it is, the same high altitude wind is going to be present.
After several tests and demonstrations, Kitegen had made a tender for their first big commercial deal, to power the aluminium smelter that’s the biggest energy user in Italy. Kitegen’s proposal was that a square kilometre, with 200 Stem generators, would do the job, provide cheap energy (about ¼ of the market price for electricity) with construction costs paid off in two years. This would have been the world’s first large scale tropospheric wind park. It didn't happen, the plant has been mothballed by its owners. We hope it will happen soon.
Kitegen – and the world - really deserve a big break here. So, say Britain needs about 80 GW, to be on the safe side, and Britain is 244,000 Km2, then potentially she perhaps needs only to devote 80 Km2 to generate all her electrical energy. You’d think it would be worth having a punt on just one square kilometer somewhere, and you’d think someone in the square mile would jump on this; but maybe it’s not real things that attracts money now, there’s higher returns elsewhere.
After numerous trials, Kitegen have proven the concept. They are still working on perfecting the model further, optimal materials, etc., but the concept is proven. If a modest amount of millions can be raised, hopefully the next step is building a 150 MegaWatt park with 50 Stems. It just needs that first plant.
Really, public money should be poured into this, there’s nothing better you could do with it. It’s all going to happen anyway, but it would be great for the world if it happened quickly. Quickly throw up a collection of gigawatt kite parks and freedom will be glimpsed, a truly massive economic and social bounty will be there to take.
And kites on the horizon are not going to be an eyesore, they’d be a beautiful sight to behold. Why should not the answer to a central, existential question turn out to be something beautiful?
On all kinds of scales, from micro to macro, from 1 KW to 3 MW to 60 GW, surely kite power must happen. And Kitegen have a very special invention, a definite game changer.
Blogger Frank, on the Kitegen site, warns Kitegen:
Always beware that one day a fake “venture capital company” or “private equity company” will show up, which in reality will be a strawman of the big utilities, showing initial interest in your company, probably offering to “invest” or found a joint venture and as soon as they have the majority in shares they will try to bury your nice idea and never let it emerge again!
These giant utilities are a mafia who walk over dead bodies and have strong political connections!
If your concept becomes reality, they will lose billions of dollars in revenue.
Yes, they’ll lose everything, all the power they’ve taken which has corroded the high aims of government for the people, by the people. Of course, the powers of monopoly have buried so much before, and it’s well worth Frank mentioning that.
We wish we had the money to invest, a mere couple of billion would change the world inexorably, even a few tens of millions could have dramatic results at this stage. It’s a very creative looking investment. Fossil fuel firms spent about $650 billion in 2013 exploring for new reserves.
Really, the Italian government, the EU, pension companies, anyone; ideally, it would be 60 million or more individual people putting in €10, and this sort of thing will develop through the Web. This 150 Megawatt Stem park would be a banker, no question.
Surely Kitegen’s technology couldn’t now be buried in the way Frank fears, in the age of the WWW. It’s a cat let out of the bag and it’s been seen, that there is one clean and pure Gigawatt per Km3 anywhere to be had with kite technology. The Kitegen engineering is brilliant, tested, and the truth will out.
From Kitegen’s website, these are the scientific papers supporting the technology.
We haven’t said nearly enough about Kitegen, but fear not, we’re going to return to Kitegen at the end for some hard numbers.