Monday, December 20, 2004

This is a new on on me:

Kites could create clean energy, say scientists

HIGH-ALTITUDE kites could be used to generate clean energy at a cost comparable with that of pollution-causing power stations, researchers claim.

The "Laddermill" is a chain of controllable wing-like kites attached to a looped cable stretching more than five miles into the sky.

Strong winds acting on the "kitewings" produce an upward force on one side of the loop and a downward force on the other, causing it to rotate.

The slowly-turning cable drives a power generator in the Laddermill base station.

Although the concept sounds far-fetched, its developers at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands hope to build a model within four years.

They claim one Laddermill could generate 100 megawatts of electricity, compared with only a few megawatts from a conventional wind turbine.

The team leader, Professor Wubbo Ockels, was inspired by making powerful high-flying kites as a boy.

Winds at 30,000ft are 20 times more powerful than at sea level. Prof Ockels, a former astronaut and head of the European Space Agency’s education office, told the Engineer magazine: "Above a certain altitude there is a massive amount of wind power. Kites that can tap into that wind can generate a great deal of energy."

At last month’s European Wind Energy Conference in London, the Laddermill team announced plans to test a variety of kiteplane designs next year using inflatable and lightweight materials.

They say despite its size, the structure would be safe.

"If the wind dropped, the Laddermill would drift gently to the ground," said Prof Ockels.

Go for it!


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