“It took ages for me to realise I was a kite turbine inventor. No wonder mum said ‘Believe it when I see it…’ It’s an amazing and odd thing I make in my loft. Finally this weekend, seeing became believing. Over 30K Youtube viewers watched the evolution of Daisy kites.” – Rod Read, Windswept and Interesting Founder
Can Handmade Kites be the Solution to Renewable Energy?
As countries move to reduce their carbon emissions, wind generators have become the most widely implemented renewable energy sources. However, wind turbines are expensive to set up and operate. Construction consumes vast amounts of energy and resources, requires significant long-term investment, and involves complex planning procedures.
A new way to generate power is sweeping in, and it looks a lot like something we use for recreation: kites. The use of kites as wind power generators avoids the need for a fixed tower, enabling access to higher altitudes, and hence stronger, more laminar airflow. Thus energy creation is cheaper, more efficient, and easily transportable. Kite turbines can also be more reliable, with multiple backup line networks for failsafe use. Large kite turbines are expected to produce the world’s cheapest energy,
Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES) are not a new concept. However, many systems under development, such as Google’s Makani, tend to require complex computer controlled hardware to steer the flying turbines accurately, making them expensive and introducing operational risk.
Roy Read Develops the Daisy Method as the Answer to Airborne Wind Energy
Hebridean engineer, Rod Read, developed a simple and affordable turbine that uses spinning kites to turn a ground-based generator. Rod spent years researching Airborne Wind Energy, designing and testing possible systems. The turbine only uses kite parts, making it lightweight and affordable. Rod’s Daisy Method is the only system that allows continuous power output.
Windswept and Interesting Ltd. is the smallest Airborne Wind Energy company in the world, but they make the big claim that their systems are the most “scalable, reliable, efficient, and safe.” Windswept and Interesting Ltd has made kite networks and kite power system designs since 2012.
“Kite power is like rocket science, but hard.” -Rod Read
Networked kites are the key enabling technology. Kites networked together are stabilised, their flight is less erratic, smoother flight despite the turbulent wind.Our prototype is the only AWES approved for testing inside an active ATCZ. Rod explains “Power to weight ratio is key to the efficiency of flying wind turbines. The advantage of using kites is their lightweight construction. My system ties the kites in a simple rigging arrangement which can be set up quickly and easily, even in terrain where you couldn’t transport a regular turbine. This first system is designed to be affordable for personal use, for example when camping, but the science which guided the design allows it to be scaled up to provide enough power for grid and utility uses.”
Rod uses his kites to power his e-bike. He took his e-bike on a camping trip and used the kite to turn his regenerative e-bike motor to charge the bike battery. “I cycled my e-bike and carried everything I needed to generate power while camping,” he says. After successfully testing a solution to power his electric bike, Rod openly published working plans for it.
Open-Handed Generosity in Design
Rod has spent the last five years perfecting his design and is now selling these scalable kite power systems online. He has partnered with the University of Strathclyde and TU Delft in the Netherlands to complete further research and development, but he also shares the design with the public, in hopes that they can help refine its engineering.
“This is technology we believe in, so we share our ideas openly,” Rod says. “We need more people to test this method. You can either build your own system or you can buy one of ours. You can actively join in with our testing and development in online forums.”
“Windswept and Interesting haven’t patented the Daisy kite method because sharing this work is too important.” -Rod Read
We all need clean cheap energy and this is a strong candidate solution, but the product needs widespread testing through availability to all. Rod urges followers, “Please read up on Airborne Wind Energy. It’s the future of wind power.”
Windswept and Interesting has raised £4,600 for open kite power research hardware and looks for further sponsorship to scale this technology to the electrical car level.
“I am going to put the kite turbine in an EV car,” Rod explained, “When the battery needs charging I’ll deploy the turbine to top up and go again. The challenge right now is the electricals. The kite is running great… The generator control is pants [rubbish]. I’m not going to scrimp and risk bad designs before testing, but investment takes time.”
One new feature of this car will be wifi communication. Because altitude improves the line of sight communications, a phone can be secured inside a kite to pick up 3G signal over long distances. “Then I log into my phone’s wifi hotspot and I’m online!” Rod says. The self-sustained, internet connected, e-car camping trip will soon be a reality.
You can find out more about Rod’s work on the project page here.