2022 May 17 | Tobias Stalis
Screenshot: YouTube / Kitekraft.A prototype of a Kitekraft kite is being tested in a wind tunnel.
The Bavarian company wants to get wind energy from the air. Is this the next big step in the transition to energy? EFAHRER.com has tested Airborne Wind Energy technology for you.
Airborne wind energy (AWE) is becoming increasingly important in the energy landscape: several companies in Europe and the US are currently developing concepts that require wind power to be generated using kite-like flying objects – mastless, with smaller rotors and less rigid ones – with height restrictions .
One of these companies is Kitekraft based in Munich. Newspaper Familiar He spoke to Florian Bauer, head of Kitekraft, about the benefits of energy-producing kites: “It’s cheaper to produce, cheaper to transport and also more efficient,” says Bauer. The carbon footprint is also much lower. “If you have all these advantages, why should you build a traditional wind turbine?
More reliable winds blow at higher altitudes
In operation, the Kitekraft kite depicts a large octopus in the sky and uses the collected wind energy to power a generator with an average power of 80 kilowatts on the ground. Compared to well-known wind turbines with a capacity of 2 to 5 megawatts, or even 15 megawatts generated by offshore wind turbines, this is low – on the other hand, compared to a small diesel generator.
Companies like Kitekraft also plan to fly much larger kites in the future to gain megawatt power. Theoretically, this approach makes sense: conventional wind turbines are at most 250 meters high, but usually much smaller than 200 meters. At this altitude, the wind blows less reliably, it can also be stopped by, for example, the surrounding trees. However, airborne wind farms such as Kitekraft should be able to ascend to 500 meters where they can reliably reach high altitude winds. Using AWE at the same time requires less material. This principle should not be a problem for birds either: proponents of this technology believe it is safer for birds than conventional wind farms.
This technology still faces some challenges
Recent authors Study “Autonomous wind energy systems in the air: achievements and challenges” are not so euphoric. Because the lines on which airborne wind turbines are mounted, as well as the turbines themselves, move quickly through the air, they can cause problems for birds.
Birds aren’t the only problem: California-based Makani has also been involved in wind power, with financial support from Google’s main Alphabet. However, in 2020 Alphabet withdrew funding and the company closed. Makani, for example, had difficulty controlling dragons and suffered several accidents.
Speaking to Knowable, KiteKraft CEO Bauer explains that the rapid expansion described by the then CEO, Makani, created a design that was too heavy and too expensive to work with without solving any technical challenges. It is still unclear how airborne wind farms will one day spread. However, Bauer himself is convinced that his company can solve technical and technological problems and make the process cost-effective.
The Swiss company’s approach is also reminiscent of the principle of wind turbines Skypullwhich wants to take off high altitude winds with special unmanned aerial vehicles that take turns up and down again.
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Meanwhile, such systems are already available from many suppliers. You will also find an overview of the most important suppliers in our purchasing tips, as well as an explanation of the main cornerstones of such a system in the form of simple questions and answers: