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TwingTec Kites Harvest High-Altitude Winds

TwingTec Kites Harvest High-Altitude Winds

Image source: swisskitepower.ch

When thinking about wind power as a viable clean energy source, most of us are familiar with the traditional propeller-type wind turbines that sit atop tall masts, but there are other up-and-coming wind technologies that could eventually bear fruit, such as using large kites to harvest wind energy.

Google thinks Makani Power’s high-altitude kite power system is worth investing in, and just recently another startup, Twingtec, got a little boost by receiving some funding from Venture Kick to further pursue its version of the technology.

Twingtec, a Swiss-based project, is developing a different type of tethered wing system to generate electricity from winds at altitudes between 100 and 300 meters above the earth. With the tethered wing system, the generator and other heavy or sensitive parts of the system, such as the electronics, remain on the ground, and only the kite and the tether that connects it to the ground are up in the air, allowing for easier installation and maintenance.

TwingTec Kites Harvest High-Altitude Winds

Image source: swisskitepower.ch

When in the power zone, the kite rises with the wind and pulls out the tether, which turns a generator to produce electricity:

“Electrical energy is produced by transforming the aerodynamic lift force of the wing into tension in the tether and eventually rotational motion of the winch. A closed-loop process is achieved by flying so called pumping cycles as shown above. In the power phase, the kite flies crosswind generating high loads. The tether pulls on the drum which starts to rotate. The kite rises and the generator connected to the drum produces electrical power. Having reached a threshold altitude, the kite is flown out of the wind and the retraction phase starts. The kite is reeled in to a lower threshold altitude from where the power phase starts again.” – Twingtec

The Twingtec project is part of a collaborative effort between Empa, the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the University of Applied Sciences Northwest Switzerland, and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, called Swiss Kite Power.

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