World : Enormous 'energy kite' promises a new way to harness wind power

The experimental device is part of the secretive Google X research lab.

One day, generating renewable energy could be as simple as flying a kite — but not just any kite.

After more than a decade of development work, an experimental “energy kite” capable of tapping into strong high-altitude winds is now being tested on Hawaii’s Big Island, West Hawaii Today reported.

The kite is being developed by Makani, an Alameda, California-based company owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Makani is part of Alphabet’s secretive Google X lab, which is known for its ambitious and sometimes outlandish projects. Other initiatives have included high-altitude balloons designed to provide internet access to remote areas and using molten salt to store renewable energy.

Makani's kite has a wingspan of 85 feet and eight rotors that spin in the wind to generate electricity, which is then transmitted to the ground via a cable. It's designed to fly autonomously while tethered to a ground station, according to the company's website.

“The rotors work as generators,” said John Hall, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo, who isn’t involved in the project. “As it sweeps around in circles, the propellers, driven by the wind, will make electricity.”

The rotors can generate up to 600 kilowatts of energy, or enough to power 300 homes, Makani executive Fort Felker said in a 2017 blog post. That's a fraction of the power output of a conventional land-based wind turbine, but the company's goal is to "build a new wind power technology capable of reaching altitudes not currently accessible to conventional wind turbines," Felker said in the post.


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Smart Grid Bulletin July 2019

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