A novel ‘kite-driven’ power station is set to come up in Scotland in what could be a major step towards finding the “magic solution” to humanity’s energy problems.
While kites have until now largely been flights of fancy that have entranced generations of children, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci and poets like Robert Louis Stevenson and Joyce Carol Oates, their practical uses have seemed limited.
Kite Power Systems plans to build a 500-kilowatt system at the Ministry of Defence’s West Freugh Range near the southern Scottish town of Stranraer after securing planning permission.
This will be the first of a significant scale in the UK and only the second in the world after a research project in Italy, The Independent reported.
Those behind the new power station believe their system could cut the price of offshore wind energy in half.
It is so cheap, they say, that there will be no need for any government subsidy –- something currently required to build any new kind of power generation, renewable or fossil fuel.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who is investing billions in green technology, has said he believes there is a 10 per cent chance that kite power is the “magic solution” to the world’s energy problems.
Other companies are also investigating the potential of “kytoons” –- kite/balloon hybrids –- or even flying turbines that can capture the energy of the jet stream at altitudes of 20,000 ft, where the wind is constant.
The firm behind the Stranraer project, Kite Power Systems has already demonstrated a small kite-driven power station in Essex.
The kites fly to heights of up to 450 metres in a figure-of-eight pattern, pulling a tether as they rise which turns a turbine that produces electricity.
By having two kites working in tandem, one going up as the other floats back down, electricity can be generated continuously.
David Ainsworth, business development director at Kite Power Solutions, told the daily that the system was mainly designed to be used offshore with the West Freugh power station designed to demonstrate its capabilities.
“Our systems basically float and the cost of the mooring is much lower than a wind turbine,” he said.
“It will be tariff-free, we just don’t need government to support it. Our potential investors believe it’s going to take off in a big way,” Ainsworth said.
According to the Met Office, Scotland is home to eight of the top 10 windiest places in the UK.