Winged Wind Turbines Remain in Limbo


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The sport of dynamic soaring is not well known, but it can be pretty spectacular. The point of it is to fly an (rc) plane along with the wind, so it gathers speed, and then to turn back through a patch of air with less wind. The speed gained is stored in the mass of the plane as well as the resistence of the air as it loops round. Then the plane moves at speed x and the air at speed y and these speeds are added, until in some cases the plane travels at 800 km/h

Dynamic soaring airplan reaching  545 mph

Another way to gain energy from the wind is to be tethered to the ground and have the wind push you relative to this tether. This is the same mechanism as is used by sailing boats or kite surf kites. The Makani turbine plane is a good example. It is in the demo phase. Another kit is the Ampex kite.

A documentary about the Makani development process..

The irony with these kind of concepts is that it can take reaaaaaly long to become a product. Below we have a demo that works in 2013. In the mean time they have spend years to ‘perfect’ the concept, but it was essentially working then.

The huy working at Shell was advising these guys.. and now he will be the director.. fastforward 9 years no poroduct!

Basically any kite with a turbine can generate energy, so it doesn’t need to be a heavily designed product at all.

This year Ampyx is publishing cool videos of their “Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES) to harness the immense and consistent power in high-altitude wind to provide reliable, low-cost energy.”

These are stalling processes with a beautifull appearance, a happy company but what renewable energy generating profit to show for all the investment? There are several other companies trying to do what Ampyx or Makani are doing.

This is a shell sponsored video..The company KPS has been aquired by https://www.kitemill.com/

The above Shell sponsored is exhausting in that it once again promises a technology that could reduce demand for fossil fuel. It seems these kind of product are kept in stasis by people claiming to help!

Kitemill seems to be more serious but they only did demo’s and “build internal competence”. So this is exactly the same story. We need to make these damn products.

It is true that wind turbines where pushed back by investors based on their ‘reliability’ which needed to be perfected. This lead to very heavy turbines that cost a lot of money and where very noisy. Now they have different (neodymium) magnets so they are way more powerfull (up to 12 MW now) and less noisy. But it cost a decade more than necessary just because fossil credit investors where slowing things down.

The below is a way more flimsy design, but it works fine and generates 450 W energy. If you multiply this by 100 you have 45 kW energy on a windy day, enough to heat your home. You can see more of their current designs here.

These guys have been working on this for 11 years now.

The real challenge with these concepts is to keep it super simple, to deliver a product and to grow a market at the price point of the basic thing. If you keep stuck in a design limbo with a feeling of perfectionism as a goal you will not achieve anything.

If the above video doesn’t show you can find it here

Above another project where the plane takes off controlled, This is way easier than from some kind of pole, and it could even be free if you hook on the tether just before takeoff (drop tethere, land, reposition tether, connect, take off, possibly fully autonomous). This could all be autonomous with smaller plans soaring charging and landing. Also the higher the voltage the thinner the tether needs to be.

Below a presentation about the potential and some other players. It seems wild that someone started with a simple effective design in 2011 and we still have no product.

Put the sound level down for the start of the below video..It seems this product is largely seen a hobby to work on, not as something you can actually use.

Good presentation

Another one. TwingTec 2018