Turbines may get most of the attention when it comes to wind power but a British firm has just received £1 million of investment to develop kite power as a cheaper, more cost-effective source of energy from the atmosphere.

The money will come from the government’s Innovate UK agency and is intended to help British engineering consortium Kite Power Solutions (KPS) create a new 500kW kite turbine. It will also be used to support the group’s first 3MW onshore power system, expected in 2019, and a further offshore development in 2021.

The company claims that kite power is considerably cheaper to manufacture than a standard windmill, costs less to deploy and is much easier to maintain.

By flying high, kites should in theory have access to a more dependable wind source that conventional turbines. Their movement also allows them to harvest an area considerably greater than their wing span.

Basic kite power harvesting has been around pretty much since kites were invented (a large one can pull its owner along using the power of the wind) and sports like kite surfing are probably the most advanced version of this basic accumulation of kite energy. But it’s still early days for commercial power harvesting which can transfer energy to the grid.

KPS plans to use its own patented twin kite system with a pair of flexible membranes attached to a rigid structure to ensure they hold their shape. They can each be adjusted so they always fly at the height with the greatest amount of wind and swoop in a looping pattern similar to the tip of a wind turbine blade. Each is retracted alternately so that one is generating power at all times.

Several of these can be daisy-chained together to reduce the amount of cabling needed to connect them to the grid. The first kites are expected to be based offshore, attached by a special mooring which can be easily detached for maintenance, something that’s not always so easy with offshore wind turbines. Once they’ve been manufactured, new kite systems can be deployed in a matter of hours.

The consortium’s first deployment aims to produce 3MW, though it also has future plans to extend this to up to 5MW. That’s equivalent to the amount promised by biogas innovator DONG Energy at its new site in Cheshire and should generate a significant return in the not too distant future.

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