Enormous ‘energy kite’ promises a new way to harness wind power

Posted: December 5, 2018 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation, wind

The spirit of Heath Robinson lives on.

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

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.

Continued here.

  1. cognog2 says:

    I expect it will require 400 homesworth of energy subsidy just to keep the thing permanently in the air. Mind you, it could be useful for powering a supertanker full of lovely fossil fuel.

    i envisage the day when the Round the World record in a wind powered vessel will be taken by a yacht driven substantially by a kite.

    PS: Wouldn’t like to be in a jet having an argument with one of these things.🤯

  2. Catenary

    I should not need to say more.

  3. Dave Ward says:

    Google aren’t the only ones working on this idea:


  4. hunter says:

    Macron Antoinette approves of this idiocratic idea.
    Jonathan Swift would have considered this ridiculous idea for one of his satires and rejected it as being too stupid to make a believable parody.
    That Google, the internet search engine for Big Brother, is backing it is not really surprising.
    After all any company that wants to help make thinking safe for tyrannical regimes really does deserve to piss money away flying kites.

  5. Graeme No.3 says:

    The intent is to get the generator high in the sky where the wind is stronger. Using a longer support column is getting expensive and raising lots of objections from people who don’t like having a 350 metre eyesore nearby.
    So the obvious place to fly these kites is in the jet stream with strong persistant wind speeds. It will interfere with aviation with the added advantage that less fuel will be burnt. A further advantage is that the 22,000 odd delegates won’t be able to go to the annual Climate Conferences.
    There are slight drawbacks; the tethering rope will have to be very, very strong so extra weight (and cost) would be necessary but I am sure that wishfull thinking will be used as in other aspects of the scam.
    The other drawback is that in extracting energy from the jet stream will slow it down and have unknown effects on the climate, but we may have to destroy the climate in order to “save” it.

  6. stpaulchuck says:

    to all the ‘green energy’ clowns out there – go fly a kite
    and disconnect from the grid. I dare you.

  7. Ve2 says:

    When Google prove the concept by running their entire company using kites it should be considered.
    A city of 5,000,000 people would only require 5,000 of these things flying in close proximity to each other with absolutely no chance of collisions or mechanical malfunction.
    The takeoff and landing areas might be a bit of a problem what with the entangling high tension cables but a few fatalities on the ground is a small price to pay for saving the planet

  8. ivan says:

    Way back in 2009 there was a great rejoicing in renewable energy circles, some Italians had thought up a new way to extract money from the gullible public and government – they would fly a kite, to where the wind speed was higher. Apparently, they managed to con some money from someone to cobble together a demo unit but, like most other renewable energy devices, that was the last heard of it.

    ALL renewable energy devices promise much but deliver very little in an extremely unreliable way. People wanting to get on with their lives need cheap, reliable energy and the only way to get that is from coal or nuclear power plants both of which are anathema to the greens and their religion.

    As far as the Google parent company is concerned this ‘device’ serves two purposes, first a tax write-off and second virtue signalling to show how ‘good’ they are to the environment.

  9. hunter says:

    And of course the classic way to get kite power to the people!!

  10. oldbrew says:

    Half kite, half plane?

    “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.”

  11. Henning Nielsen says:

    Rotors that spin in the wind…generating electricity…transmitted by cable.

    Why on earth has nobody thought of that before?!

  12. ivan says:

    oldbrew, I think it is a case of ‘the bigger the boys the bigger their toys’, especially when they have the money.

  13. oldbrew says:

    Still a toy though 🙂

  14. hunter says:

    That photo is amazing.
    Amazing that the self declared geniuses at Google fell for such an obvious transparent brobdingnagian hoax.

  15. Russ Wood says:

    Didn’t the last study on generator kites, a few years ago, conclude that the weight of the cable itself (not just the tether) would make the thing unflyable? Maybe this is yet another idea that’s awaiting the invention of a room-temperature superconductor?

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