German energy giant RWE has put a new airborne wind test facility in Ireland to work for the first time, as it explores alternative forms of green electricity.
The experimental technology was developed by Dutch startup Kitepower. It connects a large kite to a generator with an ultra-strong rope, generating electricity as the kite goes up in altitude.
“Kitepower, as the name suggests, uses a large kite structure with a hybrid inflatable and fixed fibreglass skeleton to hold the kite open. It has a wingspan of 60 square metres and weighs only 80kg, including the Kite Control and sensor unit,” explains Johannes Peschel, the company’s CEO.
The Kite Control Unit (KCU) is attached to the tether and controls the direction the kite flies. The Dyneema tether (an ultra-strong rope which is stronger than a steel wire of the same dimension, but has less than one-tenth of its weight) is attached to a Ground Station, housed in a conventional seven-metre container.
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Electricity is produced when the kite is flown in a cross-wind, figure-of-eight pattern, achieving a high pulling force. This hauls/draws the tether from the winch in the ground station. Once the maximum tether length is reached, the kite is reeled in and the process starts anew. Normally, these two operations take just 100 seconds — 80 seconds for reeling out and 20 seconds for reeling in. To find out more about the tech, check out the video below: