Scaling up kites and gliders for competitive wind power is hard and Kitegen has made larger scale fabric wing

Airborne wind energy seem simple. You would use kites, gliders, rotors or lighter than air constructs (different air filled shapes) to capture wind energy at higher altitudes. The wind is stronger and more consistent at higher altitudes and the systems could use 100 times less material than conventional wind turbine systems. Many promising possibilities remain unexplored in airborne wind energy after over 30 years of research and commercial attempts. Yet in over 30 years there has been no breakthrough to commercial airborne wind power systems.

Airborne Wind Energy Consortium have noted progress toward working, power-generating prototypes in the last few years. Companies are proving energy-generation capability, many have demonstrated some level of autonomous control, and a few are planning… power farm development.

Experts in the industry think that without strong government support, installing even one gigawatt of airborne power could take 20 years or more. Government investment of $100 million per year, that one gigawatt goal could be attained in fewer than 10 years, wind industry executives say.

Airborne wind energy:

* offers the lowest cost renewable energy
* produces nearly double the energy of comparable conventional wind turbine [NBF – getting to the comparable scale has not been achieved]
* enables quicker deployment [NBF – in theory]
* makes offshore development more economical

There are two major scientific articles about jet stream power. Archer and Caldeira claim that the jet streams can generate the total power of 1700 TW, and that the climatic impact will be negligible. Miller, Gans, and Kleidon claim that the jet streams can generate the total power of only 7.5 TW, and that the climatic impact will be catastrophic.

Kitegen in Italy has finally built a larger scale Kite Wing.

The power wing KiteGen therefore represents the leap to tropospheric wind access. experimentation limited to low power prototypes enabling new generators of the class of megawatts and, thanks to the modular design or, more simply, the concept of kite wind farm, climb to the class of gigawatts or compete in the largest segment of the energy market. The choice of the market segment in which the tropospheric wind should position is not only relevant for economic but also from the point of view of the potential in terms of contribution to combating climate change.

A robotic assembly line has allowed the production of 20 tons of molds used for packaging and cooking segments in the composite. Even the production of accessories (ailerons and bulbs) is done by robots while all assemblies and processes are labor intensive and involve attentive and specialized. The result, as can be seen from the picture has the dimensions of the wing of a large airliner but is lightweight and semirigid. The wing is formed by 9 ashlars rigid composite hinged together by flexible joints, thanks to which it can easily change configuration to vary the lift.

Kitegen Vision

Google Makani Power

Google did invest in Makani Power which uses gliders to generate power. Google could afford to make the investments that would enable scaling within 10 years.

Safety and related regulations are not trivial concerns. A 5-MW Makani device is in the works. Its 213-foot wingspan is about the same as that of a Boeing 747. If something that big breaks its tether and hits the ground, it poses obvious dangers. Even the M600 is roughly the same width as the wingspan of a Boeing 737.

It is not just nuclear energy systems that can take decades to become viable

A paper on Scalability of Airborne Wind Energy Systems gives a sense of some of the issues involved in the design of workable systems.

Airborne Wind Energy Systems
with Rotary Wing and Ground Generator