Minesto’s Dragon 12: A 28-ton tidal kite now powering the grid

Minesto Dragon 12 Tidal Kite
The Dragon 12 tidal kite harnesses ocean currents with dynamic underwater flight, offering a cost-effective and innovative approach to renewable energy. Images courtesy Minesto

In the ongoing pursuit of renewable energy, tidal power is proving to be a promising alternative with its predictability and efficiency. Minesto, a company less recognized in the tidal power arena, has recently showcased its innovative approach to harvesting this energy with its Dragon 12 tidal kite. Unlike conventional tidal turbines, the Dragon 12 operates underwater similar to a kite, utilizing tidal currents to generate energy.

The concept behind the Dragon 12 is intriguing as it combines the predictability of tidal power with a dynamic method of energy capture. Traditional tidal turbines, such as Orbital’s O2, are stationary in the water, directly capturing the energy from tidal flows. In contrast, Minesto’s Dragon series is designed to be mobile. Anchored to the seabed, these devices mimic the motion of kites in the air, maneuvering through water to maximize energy extraction from tidal currents by flying in patterns that accelerate their movement beyond the speed of the underlying currents.

This method is not only unique but also potentially more efficient. According to Minesto, this allows the Dragon 12 to extract more energy from a given tidal flow than traditional stationary designs. The design also opens up possibilities for utilizing slower tidal flows, which were previously considered economically unviable.

The size of the Dragon 12 tidal kite is notable—featuring a wingspan of 12 meters (39 feet) and weighing 28 tons. Despite its large size, it is surprisingly manageable to deploy. It can be disassembled to fit into a shipping container and installed using a relatively small boat and a single seabed tether, making it less cumbersome compared to other large-scale offshore power installations like wind turbines.

Minesto Dragon 12 Tidal Kite Size
The Dragon 12 tidal kite features a substantial 12-meter wingspan and weighs 28 tons.

Cost is a critical factor in the adoption of renewable technologies, and the Dragon 12 shows promise in this area as well. Back in 2017, Minesto projected that the levelized cost of energy (LCoE) for the Dragon 12 would start around US$108 per megawatt-hour (MWh) once a hundred megawatts of capacity were operational, with potential reductions to as low as $54/MWh. To put this in perspective, the initial LCoE for Orbital’s O2 tidal turbine was targeted below $253/MWh, and fixed-bottom offshore wind projects had an average estimated LCoE of around $89/MWh in 2022, as reported by the US Department of Energy.

The deployment location for the Dragon 12 also plays a crucial role in its performance. The Faroe Islands, situated in the North Atlantic between Scotland and Iceland, provide an ideal setting due to their geography. The islands’ numerous narrow channels accelerate tidal currents, enhancing the energy-harvesting capability of tidal devices. It is here that Minesto has launched its first grid-connected Dragon 12, marking a significant milestone for the company and the broader renewable energy landscape.

Minesto Dragon 12 Tidal Kite Towing
The Dragon 12 was towed to the Faroe Islands, whose narrow channels amplify tidal currents, maximizing the kite’s energy harvesting potential.

Dr. Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto, highlighted the importance of this achievement in a recent press release. He stated, “We have reached the most significant milestone in the history of the company by producing electricity to the grid with our megawatt-scale powerplant. We are both proud and happy and more than ever look forward to the journey ahead … The competitiveness of the Dragon 12 tidal kite is straight to the point; it’s powerful, cost-effective, and feeds predictable electricity to the grid.”

As the world continues to seek out reliable and cost-effective renewable energy solutions, the innovative approach of the Dragon 12 offers a glimpse into the potential of tidal power. This technology not only expands the possibilities of where and how tidal energy can be harnessed but also underscores the growing viability of tidal power as a significant player in the renewable energy mix.

Minesto Dragon 12 Tidal Kite Team
The Minesto team poses with the 1.2 MW Dragon 12.

Source: Minesto