Kitegen: The Numbers
They were depressing things to be talking about, a blast of fresh air is called for. So, wishing to end on a high-as-a-kite note, we return to Kitegen and, most importantly, to the whole economics of natural energy, keeping in mind fracking’s probable demand of 20,000 cricket pitches in the UK, about 100,000 acres or 405 Km2; and keep in mind Kitegen’s claims to be able to produce a GigaWatt per Km3 with a Carousel.
We’re drawing again on Ugo Bardi’s piece.
And in this piece, Bardi draws on this piece by energy researcher Charles Hall, where Hall is critically examining ideas of natural energy smoothly taking over from hydrocarbons. He is pessimistic, feeling that scale and energy return are problems. Basically, renewables capacity is not going to get there in time, pointing out the calculations where, in energy terms, installation of enough renewables is dependent on fossil fuels. There’s a particular statistical analysis Hall uses and Bardi builds upon and explains Kitegen in these terms.
Energy generation can be usefully examined in terms of the EROEI measure, the Energy Return on Energy Invested. Most renewable technologies perform reasonably well on this measure, a value of about 10 for photovoltaics (though this figure sorely needs constant updating) and 20 for wind. But several decades ago, at the height of the cheap oil era, the EROEI of petrol was over 100. Though, as we’ve said, the broader EI is nowhere near accounted for, there was never going to be any competing with that.
The Kitegen concepts have had some detailed study, and based on these Bardi made calculations, including known recent data for comparisons. His calculation of a conventional 3 MW wind turbine, taking into account the building and maintenance and lifetime, arrived at an EROEI value of around 20. The same analysis applied to Kitegen’s machine are completely off that scale. His analysis gave Kitegen an EROEI value of 375! over a 30 year lifespan; that’s Three Hundred and Seventy-Five.
And this is even before, even before, the Carousel model starts to be scaled up, and then the EROEI value would go through the roof, and the sky’s the limit, which in this case is true literally and figuratively. Bardi reminds us that these values should be treated with caution, but it does give a very strong pointer. There is serious and tested physics and engineering behind this.
And Bardi’s point here is that, in terms of Charles Hall’s calculations, at these kind of EROEI levels, natural energy could develop fast enough to provide a smooth transition from hazardous and destructive fuels; nay, a rapid transition!
Bardi recalls the dreams of the 1950s when energy was prophesised as becoming too cheap to meter, and sees that high altitude wind may be about to provide this.
Crucially he points out:
Not only we could have cheap energy, but we could also have it fast. Consider a conventional wind turbine, with an EROEI of 20 over a 20 years lifetime. During this period, the energy generated could be used to build 20 more turbines; an average of one per year. A kitegen, with an EROEI > 200 and the same lifespan, could be the "seed" for hundreds more kitegens, an average of more than one per month. With such a high EROEI, high altitude wind energy wouldn't need fossil fuels as energy subsidy. It could grow by itself so fast that it could replace fossil sources well before we arrive to the last drop. That would also ease the climate problem by rapidly reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.
Wipe them out quickly, make them uneconomic. It won’t be possible to pretend that Kitegen can’t do what they claim. This has got to be fully tested – and this really should be happening, if there’s any responsibility anywhere beyond service to strategic corporate interests. There’s no doubt about the technology behind this. The numbers produced look fantastical, but they are the numbers produced. Check this. The too-cheap-to-meter possibilities are actually here. The answer was blowing in the wind.
We’ve got total belief in Kitegen, we’re convinced of it and blissful to hang our hat on it, if that’s all we have to invest at this point. Once one of these plants is built, we’re sure hundreds will follow.
Massimo Ippolito says about the technology:
It’s not our invention. It’s the wind.
We’ve got his feeling there. We’ve got no idea how to go about making a nomination for the Nobel Prize for Engineering, but when we find out, we’re going to nominate Massimo Ippolito for this award.