Renewable energy? Go fly a kite!

Note: If you have come here with the need to compare my original article to that of NucFluens, you’re in for a surprise. I have taken some of NucFluens improvements, and incorporated them in this post.  In the near future I plan to include an archival copy of the original article (no photo, headers, and original title) for those of you interested in the nature of the improvements.

Dancing Kites

In the topic of renewable energy, there is a heated debate about whether solar, wind, and other environmentally-friendly technologies will ever provide an alternative to coal-generated power. The key issue at stake is whether the renewable sources provide sufficient energy with enough reliability to replace coal in the provision of ’base load’. In case you’re new to the topic, base load refers to the minimum amount of energy required by our cities. It is the baseline-level required to ensure no parts of our cities and rural areas have a blackout. Think about it as the minimum wage required by our electricity needs.

Base load: A problem for alternative energy sources

The problem with base load is that we need to ensure our generation facilities always provide at least that amount of power into the grid. But the sun doesn’t always shine; and the wind doesn’t always blow. There are several articles that explain in detail the problem that this poses for the development of a sustainable, renewable energy generation system (link). There is a team of scientists based on California that believes there is an alternative. I found out about them via Robert Cringely, a published author & columnist who has been writing on the Technology field for over 20 years. In his weekly column ’I Cringely’ of the 12 of October 2007 (link) , Bob describes the approach that ’Makani Power’ (link) is taking.

Makani Power: Creating a better future

The basic idea is simple enough: They want to build a super-kite to be flown at stratospheric altitudes, where the wind always blows at high speed; and attach power-generating turbines to the kites. If they succeed, the area required to generate ’base load’ for the whole of the US will be entirely within their means, as it will be for many other countries – Australia included.

Google: An unlikely ally

This is very exciting news for those of us worried about global warming; and it was fascinating to read that of all the companies that could have invested into Makani Power, it was an unlikely investor that took the plunge. Their name? Google

The concept is simple; more than enought money has been provided; there are technical experts that are luminaries in the field; and the company backing this new venture is renowned for an unprecedented level of success. The only remaining question is When will it be ready?

For our own sake, I hope the answer is sometime very soon!

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4 responses to “Renewable energy? Go fly a kite!

  1. That’s amazing 😀

  2. Baekho,

    thanks for your comment. It is truly an amazing idea; I only believed it because it was reported by such a trustworthy source (Bob Cringely)

    By the way, I loved your execution of this article in NuncFluens. Your use of images, and the slightly more polished language made a very big difference to the article. Well done, mate!

  3. Just like you, I was stunned by this amazing project. Even moreso because being a kite artist and designer myself an I have met Pete Lynn,one of the Makani engineers, on a couple of occasions when he was younger, at kite festivals were he was assisting his father Peter Lynn the most famous kite inventor and kiteflier of our generation.

    With the background Pete was raised in and his training in engineering, no wonder he has been able to develop himself a great concept for harvesting the wind’s energy using kites. Along with the other kite experts at Makani, Don Montague and Saul Griffith himself, and with all the other telented engineers in the team they have buid up, I just cannot find a reason why they wouldn’t succeed.
    (Except maybe because of thunderstorms; what would happen when a lightning strikes the power line linking the kites to the ground?)

    How long will it take? These guys obviuosly do things fast, they take their ideas directly from the brain to the workbench… They also already have enough funding to do almost whatever they want. For sure they’ll be much faster than the Italians currently developping the Kitegen project which is in my opinion bound to fail anyway.
    However, the winds are so wild up there that it isn’t going to be that easy.
    My guess is that it could take easily 5 years before a fullscale functionnal prototype is made and successfully tested.
    10 years before the system is implemented worldwide…

  4. pierre,

    Thanks for leaving such a comprehensive comment. It must be very exciting to know someone like Pete Lynn ‘in the flesh’, even if it was at an earlier time.

    I concur with your assessment: This group of people has a very real chance of making a massive difference. Although to some people 5-10 years may sound like an eternity, it is nothing when you think in the time scales that advances in Alternative energy sources / Climate change have happened.

    I was also unaware of the Kitegen project (link); I found it very interesting to see the difference in ‘web site & content richness’ between the 2 projects. Maybe Makani has elected to devote every penny to the actual development project; whereas Kitegen appears to have a more comprehensive PR & Marketing budget.

    I will keep an eye on developments and report back when something exciting happens. Thanks again for participating in the forum!

    -The Crazy Colombian

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