The 5 Best High Flying Wind Power Projects

3. Makani Wind Kites: Elegant Wind Power

Makani Wind takes a different tack with high altitude wind power: they look to kites. The company's innovation attracted some high profile investors--Google among them --and they've since made the prospect of flying wind power-generating kites high in the sky a reality.

A full 10 kW, enough to power a handful of homes, can be created by a kite roughly the size of a piano. But Makani is also working on much bigger kites--ones that fly as high as 2,000 ft and that generate electricity in the megawatt range. In the video below, CEO Saul Griffith shows the kites in action, and explains how we could meet all of the US's power needs in 10 years with such kites alone.

4.The 30,000 Ft. Laddermill

Taking the concept of using kites to harness high altitude wind power a step further, plans are in motion to build a towering 'Laddermill', a series of connected 'kitewings' that rotate in a loop which generates energy, which is then sent down below through a tether. The concept is being brought to life by researchers and students at the Netherlands' Delft University. From the project description:

The kites used in the laddermill, generally called "kiteplanes", combine the ascension characteristics of kites with the descension characteristics of aircraft. By creating a large loop of kiteplanes ascending and descending, a rotation can be created. In turn, this rotation can be coupled to a generator to create energy. The loop of kiteplanes can ultimately go up to 30.000 feet, which would generate approximately 100MW.
Which would be enough to power 100,000 homes. Students have already tested a tiny version that successfully generated 10 kW, and are about to test a 50 kW model.

Here's a video where the Laddermill's prime backer, Dr. Wubbel Oeckels--perhaps not so coincidentally the first Dutchman in space--explains the idea's potential and appeal:

5. KiteGen--Airborne Nuclear Power Plant?

Not exactly--but Italian tech company KiteGen has made quite a claim: that its complex high altitude kite system can create as much energy as a nuclear power plant. Its Kite Wind Generator (KWG) is designed with a vertical spin axis that sends a kite up to 800 meters in the air to capitalize on high energy winds.

All the equipment that generates power remains on the ground, and only the 'airfoils' are held aloft by the wind. Each kite would be able to create 3 MW--and an entire installation occupying the same are of a nuclear power plant (a square mile or so) could feasibly create just as much energy. Another bonus: the land would still be able to be used for agriculture or development, as the KWG's spacing would be intermittent.

Here's a video of KiteGen's plans in simulated action:

With many stunning projects like these well into the development stages, imagining the day when the planet is powered by the jet stream is getting easier and easier. Which is not to say we're there quite yet--there are a slew of hurdles to yet overcome: transmission issues, a lack of serious investment in most cases, and the obvious airspace complications. That said, it looks like it might not be long before we start zoning the skies.

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Tags: Alternative Energy | Clean Energy | Wind Power

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