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KiteGen looks to get wind-power off the ground


December 18, 2011

The large kites in the KiteGen system are able to take advantage of high-altitude winds (Image: KiteGen)

The large kites in the KiteGen system are able to take advantage of high-altitude winds (Image: KiteGen)

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Wind-power has rapidly evolved over the last decade to become a key part of the alternative energy mix with towering rows of turbines now dotting horizons all over the globe. One of the drawbacks to the conventional windmill approach is that they are still low to the ground, so why not go to where the winds are stronger and more consistent - up. Like the Magenn Air Rotor System, KiteGen technology is aiming to do just that. The system generates energy by guiding tethered kites over a predefined flight path in order to rotate a ground based turbine and, while only in the testing and planning phases, it looks to be a promising solution. The large wings (or kites) in the KiteGen system are driven by avionic sensors located in a dome base that also houses an electric generator. The control system is designed to automatically guide the kites in order to rotate the turbine and maximize torque. As altitude increases, average wind speeds increase as well. This is a factor that traditional wind turbines cannot compete against, since they are stationary and are generally only able to reach heights of 100m.

Not only does this technology have the potential to outdo the efficiency of conventional wind turbines, it also takes up much less space than what you need to create an entire wind turbine farm. While a 1000 MW wind turbine farms takes up an area of 250 to 300 kilometers squared, KiteGen says its approach will take up as little as 5 to 6 kilometers squared for the same output. It is estimated that a wind power plant of this type can produce around 500 GWh yearly.

KiteGen predicts it can achieve energy costs of US$0.02-$0.05 per kWh, as compared to $0.05-$0.09 per kWh for fossil energy and $0.15 per kWh for current windmills.   Invented by Massimo Ippolito, KiteGen was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Chieri, near Turin, Italy. The engineers are currently working with a sister company called Sequoia Automation S.r.l. which takes care of technical software development and mechanical engineering.

Currently the system is still in the development and standardization process while hoping to gather the funding necessary to produce the first full-sized model. An off-shore system is also in the works.

The following video provides an overview of the KiteGen system.


A neat idea. Maybe it could even generate electricity some day.

Todd Dunning

I am confused why they would use a 2 line kite and when a 3 line kite would un-power and re-power so much easier and reliably. Agreed there would be an extra line to deal but the reliability would be worth it.

Michael Mantion

\"While a 1000 MW wind turbine farms takes up an area of 250 to 300 kilometers squared, KiteGen says its approach will take up as little as 5 to 6 kilometers squared for the same output.\"

While the wind turbans have to be spread out but assuming 4000 2.5 MW turbines even accounting for access roads the wind farm won\'t take up more than 2 or 3 square kilometers. The rest of the space can be put to other uses.


Is it safe for birds and bats, and other flying creatures?


From the initial images, it appears as if they are using a 4 line kite...

Though a 4-line kite as used for kite surfing allows full power and de-power (it depends on the geometry as to the amount of de-power available... if the de-power isn\'t needed, then a 2-line kite is more than adequate.... (seeing they are using dynamic side slipping to reel the kite in, if there is a total loss of wind (lull) it should be able to reel in the whole kite before it falls to the ground (remember that a kite domes down like a parachute, or a falling leaf...) therefore allowing the ground around the wind farm to be used for agriculture etc ....

Also as these kites are soft, there will be no rigid structures to damage things....

Seeing they are controlled from the kite itself, there is no reason why the system cannot be a single line, with all additional control lines being in the form of a \'short\' bridle at the kite end, simplifying the reel in procedure and making it more fault free...

The kite control, even the side slip can be easily accommodated at the kite itself (though it does need a windlass on the kite to effect this of course.)

Also, flying kites up to 3000m (why limit it to this, as the jetstream is there to be used in the sky will need a NOTAM ensuring aircraft keep clear of the area...

Anyone who has had experience flying big kites in close proximity (kite surfing etc) will know that the kites can be flown with overlapping lines (and even canopies, even on reverse paths, as long as the down wind kite is high, and the upwind kite is low there is rarely a problem) with \'no\' risk of entangling lines (needs a centralised coordinating system) allowing a much smaller footprint on the ground for multiple stations than a wind turbine based system...

Will see if it becomes viable.


Innovative but may be expensive to achieve.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
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