Wind-powered kites could signal step-change for renewable energy

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 05 Aug 2015 15:41
Kite power could supply low-cost, low-carbon energy by 2019
Kite power could supply low-cost, low-carbon energy by 2019

British clean-tech company Kite Power Solutions has embarked on a £10M funding round to support the commercial development of its kite power technology for deployment in offshore waters.

Kite Power Solutions’ technology claims to be a step-change in the generation of electricity from wind compared with conventional wind turbines that use tonnes of steel.

As it’s cheaper to manufacture, easier to deploy and maintain and would be free of government subsidies, this innovative technology has the potential to transform the offshore wind market in the UK and the international markets. Kite Power Solutions is aiming to deploy its first 3MW power system in offshore waters by 2019.

Bill Hampton, Founder and Chief Executive of Kite Power Solutions (KPS) says: “We will be able to compete with offshore wind and without subsidies by removing tonnes of steel from every MWh produced offshore.

“Quite simply, by removing the steel from clean energy you make it lighter per MW and thus cheaper, and with a lower carbon footprint. Our kite technology is easier and cheaper to deploy and maintain.”

KPS is targeting the offshore wind market as its technology can reduce the capex of conventional offshore turbines by as much as 50%. Offshore wind installations are currently priced at around £140/MWh and are projected to fall to £78/MWh by 2020. KPS expects to reduce that cost to around £50/MWh by 2020.

In June of this year, Bill Gates described kite power as a “magic solution”. Whilst there are other systems under development around the world, the patented KPS system is unique and is the only British company active in the kite power market.

The KPS power system has two kites that are flown on a man-made fibre tether between 500m to 750m length, the tether is attached to a winch system that generates electricity as it spools out. By achieving flight speeds of up to 100mph in 20mph winds, tether tension causes the line to be rapidly spool out from a drum, which is connected to an electricity generator.

Commenting on the cost of kite power generation when compared to conventional wind turbine generation, KPS’s Bill Hampton said: “Conventional wind energy technology can’t go much further: turbines are getting larger and conversion efficiencies are the highest they've ever been.

“Conventional offshore turbines require complex, expensive engineering, specialist installation vessels and tonnes of steel, the second most sought after commodity after oil. Both the industry and government need a step change in technology if the targets for renewables are to be met.”

KPS’s kite and cable system reduces the amount of steel required by over 75%, and the anchor system to hold the KPS installation is equipment routinely used in the offshore oil industry to install FPSOs (Floating Production Storage & Offloading) vessels and other large ships. The lightweight KPS system can therefore be deployed in far deeper waters.

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