Kite-Powered Generator


Image: KiteGen Research


The Italian firm KiteGen Research is developing a generator that harnesses the wind through kites. As a kite flies into the air, it unspools a cord that cranks the turbine. Carina Storrs writes in Popular Science:

The company developed a prototype that flies 200-square-foot kites to altitudes of 2,600 feet, where wind streams are four times as strong as they are near ground-based wind turbines.

As the kite’s tether unspools, it spins an alternator that generates up to 40 kilowatts. Once the kite reaches its peak altitude, it collapses, and motors quickly reel it back in to restart the cycle. This spring, KiteGen started building a machine to fly a 1,500-square-foot kite, which it plans to finish by 2011, that could generate up to three megawatts—enough to power 9,000 homes.


http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-09/planet-fixers-clever-innovations-greener-future | Company Website

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A 'laddermill' would even be better: it is fully wind driven (so yes, it's a modern version of the windmill. Only much bigger and much more energy efficient.

http://www.lr.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=8d16d19a-e942-45aa-9b52-48deb9312e92
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The advantage is that they fly "to altitudes of 2,600 feet, where wind streams are four times as strong as they are near ground-based wind turbines."
The kite collapses when it reaches the end of its tether, so it is easier to rewind.
What happens when the wind stops and the huge kite crashes at the end of a half mile tether?
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I'm having trouble grasping how this is an improvemenet over a windmill. I suppose you could let the kite out, have it collapse, and then have a wind-powered device to reel it back in; but then why not just use the wind-driven device to generate all the energy in the first place?
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