Scientists now believe that high altitude kites or drones could be used to harness dependable power and wind and could revolutionise our approach to the renewable energy generation.
The university of Madrid have a research team who are using the giant aerofoil kites used in kite surfing, to use as an experiment with on board energy generation, in the form of small wind turbines mounted onto the aircraft, the power to which is generated is then transmitted to the ground via a cable tether which will also be what keeps the kite securely in place.
If you compare this to expensive traditional wind energy turbines, airborne wind energy systems present low installation costs and material costs. If airbone energy systems were to go ahead, they would operate at altitudes of over 500 metres high, where they would present a low visual impact and where winds are more intense and also less intermittent.
Because of the technologies easier form of transportation, it makes them suitable for producing energy in more remote/difficult areas and environments. This means that they could be deployed to provide temporary power generation for remote areas or disaster zones.
The kites are held up and secured by tethers, the research team have started investigating how the movement of the tethers could generate power on the ground, as well as high up in the air.
A researcher at the university’s business school UC3M, Gonzalo Sanchez, said, “The ultimate aim is to produce clean energy, the main advantage or 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 then 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 can’t be supplied for example, these kinds of devices can be used.”
Ricardo Borobia Moreno, who is a PhD student and also an aerospace engineer at the Spanish National Institute of Aerospace technology, said, “The aim of this stimulation is to reproduce how these systems will behave in flight in order to predict as accurately as possible how much energy we can generate and its reliability and safety in flight.”
The team has presented a flight stimulator for AWES in a scientific article published in applied mathematical modelling.
“The simulator can be used to study the behaviour of AWES, optimise their design and find the trajectories maximising the generation of energy”, Mr Moreno said.
Two of the kitesurf kites have been equipped with technology which will record the information such as the position and the speed of the kite attack and sideslip angles, and tether tensions, the data that was collected was then used to inform the creation of the software simulator.
Mr Moreno added, “we gauge its position, the speed of the kite and the speed of the air. Characteristically with these systems which are tied to the ground with tethers, we measure the tension in the tethers to estimate the aerodynamic forces which are being generated by the kite,”
If we could work together to find a smaller, affective alternative to wind turbines which can help us generate a bigger amount of renewable energy, we could really change the way our future shapes and hugely reduce our carbon footprint.