Kitepower is a registered trade mark of the Dutch company Enevate BV developing mobile airborne wind power systems. Kitepower was founded in 2016 by Johannes Peschel and Roland Schmehl as a commercial spin-off from the Delft University of Technology’s astronaut Wubbo Ockels. The company is located in Delft, Netherlands, and currently includes 18 employees (2018).
Based on its first 20 kW (rated generator power) prototype, Kitepower is currently developing a scaled-up 100 kW system for the purpose of commercialization. Funding is provided by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Fast Track to Innovation project REACH in which the company is collaborating with Dromec, Maxon Motor and Genetrix.
The Kitepower system is composed of a lightweight, high-performance kite, a load-bearing tether and a ground-based electric generator. Another important component is the so-called kite control unit and the control device for remotely steering the kite. For energy production, the kite is operated in consecutive “pumping cycles” with alternating reel-out and reel-in phases: during reel-out the kite is flown in crosswind maneuvers (transverse to the incoming wind, common figure of eight patterns). This creates a large pulling force which is used to pull a ground-based drum that is connected to a generator. In this phase electricity is generated. Once the maximum time is reached, the time is reeled back, but this time depowered, such that it can be retracted with a low aerodynamic resistance. This phase consumes a small fraction of the previously generated power such that in total net energy is produced. The electricity is buffered by a rechargeable battery unit, or in a kite park configuration, several systems can be operated with reduced battery capacity.
Airborne wind energy promises to be a cost-competitive solution to existing renewable energy technologies. The main advantages of the airborne wind energy technology are the reduced material use compared to conventional wind turbines (no foundation, no tower) which allows reaching for higher altitudes and makes the systems more mobile in terms of rental, and considerably cheaper in construction. Challenges are robustness and reliability of the flying wind energy system and the airspace requirements of the technology.
For the art project Windvogel of the Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde the Kitepower system was operated also during night, using a light-emitting tether