High-altitude kites or drones could be used to harness dependable wind power and could revolutionise approaches to renewable energy generation, scientists believe.
A research team at the University of Madrid are using the giant aerofoil kites used in kitesurfing to experiment with on-board energy generation, in the form of small wind-turbines mounted to the aircraft. The power generated is then transmitted to the ground via a cable tether which also keeps the kite in place.
In comparison to expensive traditional wind-turbines, airborne wind energy systems (AWES) present low installation and material costs. They would also operate at high altitudes of over 500 metres, where they present a low visual impact and where winds are more intense and less intermittent.
The researchers said the technology’s easier transportation make them suitable for producing energy in remote and difficult access areas. Therefore they could be deployed to provide temporary power generation in remote areas or disaster zones.
Gonzalo Sánchez Arriaga, a researcher at the university’s business school UC3M, said: “The ultimate aim is to produce clean energy. The main advantage of airborne energy systems is that they operate at higher altitudes than conventional aerogenerators where the winds tend to be stronger and less intermittent. Another advantage is they are usually more compact systems and they are transportable."
He added: “We believe systems like these can be placed into a container and in the event of a catastrophe such as an earthquake or where energy needs to be generated in a specific place, where fuel cannot be supplied for example, these kinds of devices can be used.”