We have developed an Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) system that utilizes a unique tethered aerial device as part of an energy generation system. The aerial device is often referred to as a kite due to its similar reliance on the power of the wind to keep it aloft and a tether anchored to the ground to constrain it. Although it looks more like a wing or a small plane.
AWE has a number of advantages, most significantly, that it allows us to reach higher altitudes at a given location compared to small wind turbines. Capturing the better winds allows us us to generate up to four times the amount of electricity at a given site compared to small wind turbines.
Additionally, the technology is expected to require significantly less capital to construct due to the significantly smaller tower, and the environmental impact on-site is similarly expected to be minimized.
To generate electricity, one simply wraps the ground tether around a capstan drum that is connected to a generator. As the wind pulls the kite away from the drum, it spins and generates electrical power. Once the kite reaches the maximum operational range, it will glide back in as the ground station rewinds the tether and the cycle repeats. As wind speeds increase, so does the electrical power generated. Our system uses a more aerodynamically efficient aerial device with on board GPS guided flight controls that ensure it accurately follows a prescribed circular or figure eight cork-screw crosswind flight path. The aerial device is a rigid wing, similar to an airplane wing with a single tether. The system utilizes a very small tower for launch and retrieval of the device to enable autonomous operation. Our system operates within the current FAA guidelines of <499 feet.
The kite is designed to have optimal maneuverability, while maintaining a high lift-to-drag ratio, to enable it to operate under FAA regulations and still generate enough lift to produce power at a viable rate. The kite will also include sensors and instruments to allow us to accurately control it and follow the most optimal flight path. The kite design is currently patent pending.
The ground station
The ground station contains the generation system, grid connection and some flight controls. It consists of a tether management system, a drum and a generator. Anything past the generator are standard components similar to a residential solar installation.