SkySails power kites harvest wind energy at high altitudes

SkySails Power kites can harvest wind energy at altitudes of up to 400 meters. Images courtesy SkySails Group

Humanity has long sought to harvest energy provided by nature. Among all of the alternatives, the most abundant, environmentally friendly, and cost-efficient energy source for harnessing and conversion to electricity is the power of the wind.

Conventional wind technology has come a long way, but there is a largely untapped area: high altitudes. There is more wind high up than anywhere near the ground, yet existing technology has simply not been sufficient enough to leverage and tap into the wind overabundance at high altitudes. That is, until now.

Introducing SkySails Power energy kites

SkySails Power, a German company, believes that it has tapped into a brand new method of harnessing the mighty power of wind and converting it to energy at altitudes of up to 400 meters. Seeking to revolutionize the wind-energy sector and help usher the world closer into full-scale renewable energy, SkySails Power posits that it can use a system of automatic power kites to accomplish this formerly unaccomplished feat.

SkySails Group has stated that these automatic power kites are at the core of their wind-energy vision. They are the first company in the world to apply their methodology on an industrial scale, and they feel that at this time, they can scale up and expand their approach. They believe that their lightweight, highly-efficient SkySails kites will change the impact of wind energy on a profound scale and help to achieve a transition to global renewable energy.

Using power kites to harvest high-altitude wind energy

By leveraging the capability of power kites, SkySails has assembled a reliable, flexible, and competitively priced Airborne Wind Energy System (AWES) that will provide a superior solution to address the challenges of deploying rapid renewable energy.

The wind that is near the ground can provide sufficient power, but it is impeded significantly by surface friction which reduces the wind’s speed. At higher altitudes, the wind moves far more freely, and thanks to AWES, it can now yield far more energy, especially in sites that are regarded as those that produce low-wind output.

Factoring in a specific time of the day, as well as strategic locations, speeds at 400-meter altitudes can be double or triple those nearer to the ground. The kites are simple to install and easy to retrieve back down to the ground if the situation calls for such an action. Therefore, they can be operated during high wind events, especially in regions susceptible to typhoons and hurricanes. The kite’s transport and deployment are so simple that, the kites can be removed in the case of natural disaster, but can also reach those places formerly too challenging to access for harvesting wind energy.

SkySails Power notes that this power source offers, at long last, a viable alternative to conventional methods of energy production, being able to keep up even with baseload supplied brown coal. This AWES system is more cost-efficient and reliable than conventional natural energy methods like solar panels and wind turbines. They can even replace diesel generator installations.

How do SkySails power kites work?

These airborne high-wind energy systems are globally patented and are made of 5 primary components:

  • A tethered free-flying power kite
  • A launch & recovery system for deploying said kite
  • A system of automatic controls
  • A rotating ground station
  • A generator within the ground station is used for converting wind power to energy

When the kite is ready to be deployed, it is lifted out of storage and positioned on the launch, and the landing mast is readied to begin operation. As the wind begins to hit the kite, it forces it open to its full size until the kite is launched. Once ready to launch, the tether is extended by a winch until the desired height of the kite is achieved (between 200 to, in some cases, 800 meters).

During the ‘power phase’, the kite is flown in figures of 8.

The kite will then unwind the tether from the winch which is wrapped around a turning power generator inside of the ground station. This begins to generate energy. During this phase, referred to as the “power phase”, the kite is flown in figures of 8. All the while, the tether continues to extend until it reaches its maximum extension, at which point it begins to be retrieved.

The kite is pulled into a position that generates a low pulling force, with the generator taking on the role of a coil that retrieves the tether. Compared to the energy generated during the power phase, this action uses only a small fraction of it, while the surplus of generated energy feeds into the electrical grid. Once the kite is fully reeled in, the process restarts. The AWES system can be installed at various ground points, as well as in offshore surroundings on either built or floating foundations.

SkySails Power kites can be installed onshore or offshore.

Source: SkySails Power