Instructables

Electricity Generating Kite!

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Imagine, a children's toy generating all of your electricity needs. That is the reality of kite power! Kites mounted with turbines fly autonomously generating power on a megawatt scale! I have always been infatuated with kites. Their simple movement and calming effect seem to interest every child.

For this reason, I have created a power generating kite, to explore the future of alternative energy. This easy to follow instructable will show you how you can make your own power generating kite on a budget. Although it may not be a permanent solution, kite power shows how many interesting ways there are to generate power. 

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Step 1: Background

Picture of Background
magennblimp1.jpg
KiteGen2.tiff

Our search for a key to future energy development can be found in wind energy. As the sun warms the earth’s surface, the atmosphere is warmed also. Warm air weighs less than cold air, which make it rise. The cool air then moves in to replace the warm air. This movement of air is what causes wind. In the 1st century, a Greek man named Heron of Alexandria created the first windmill. A wind generator attempts to convert the motion of air into electricity or in some cases, mechanical power. It is one of the oldest forms of renewable power generation in human history.

The quest for creating a revolutionary wind generator that has the potential to compete with fossil fuels starts with the wind. Modern wind turbines like the Enercon E-126 is highly engineered. Standard tower to turbine systems, no matter how highly engineered they are, have limitations. First, they cannot rise above 500 feet. They are tied to the constraints of a tower. They are heavy and extremely difficult to transport. They are expensive, and not cost effective enough. They do not produce enough power to be competitive with fossil fuels. Modern wind turbines are getting larger and larger, it seems they have reached their height limitations. Some say “the wind turbine,” is the most efficient design for converting the motion of the wind into mechanical or electrical power. I am here to tell you, it is not.

A man named Miles L. Loyd from Livermore, California wrote a seminal paper titled, “Crosswind Kite Power.” This paper describes a concept for large-scale wind power production by means of aerodynamically efficient kites. By using the same principles as airplane construction, these kites can transverse the wind at very fast speeds. The methodology used in Mr. Loyd’s paper lays the foundation for the study of power-producing kites. Mr. Loyd writes, “Recent development of large wind turbines has led to a high degree of refinement in their design. These turbines are near optimum for available materials and processes but the single-unit power output in limited to a few megawatts.” Through the years thermal and electric power have replaced windmills in many applications. Windmills, in recent years, have only gained recognition due to their connection with alternative energy. Kites have barely been considered.

A kites’ surface converts the motion of the wind into lift or motion of the kite. Conventional methods for power generation using a kite have involved mounting turbine to the kite. Moreover, some methods include the kite pulling its tether which in turn pulls on a generator producing power. In this project an entirely new perspective on Airborne Wind Turbines (AWT) will show the potential of kite based wind energy.

Up until now, airborne wind turbines have been stationary, only to face the wind, like the Magenn Air Rotor System featured on the right. A system like this is not only unimaginative, but it lacks the size and area of a ground based wind turbine. The only advantage Magenn delivers is that it functions at higher altitudes, soon. A kite system, as proposed in this project would not simply face the wind like the Magenn air rotor system, but such a kite would fly in a predetermined path downwind from the tether point and the kite motion would b e redirected to transverse the wind. The kite would fly in an orbital axis, is the same sense that a wind turbine’s blade flies transverse to the wind. The wind would not only be supporting the kite in this system, but it would also be generating usable electricity. The kite in this case, would mimic the rotational movement of the tip of the wind turbine. The tip of the wind turbine is one of the most efficient parts of the mill which constitutes the last 25% of the blade. In some cases, the tip of the wind turbine produces 75% of the power generated. The tip is rotating at the highest velocity due to the fact that it is sweeping the largest part of any of the blade.

In this brief talk, Saul Griffith unveils the invention his new company Makani Power has been working on: giant kite turbines that create surprising amounts of clean, renewable energy.

Very nice project. I just wonder how much it outputs.

Tjm20006 months ago
Amazing idea im definatly gonna try this but i agree with rickharris, you could get a massive electric shock. But still very cool project
astral_mage10 months ago
actually u used a flexible solar cell it can be done
rickharris1 year ago
Don't fly a kite with a conductive line. it's an easy recipe for getting a serious electric shock.

Nicely presented.
rread2 years ago
I'm building a kite generator too. I've been saying for a while I'm going to share it on instructables. Have a look at it https://sites.google.com/site/kitepowerresearch/home
rread rread1 year ago
I'm gone way down the rabbit hole now on this... http://kitepowercoop.org
every 2nd thought is kite power at the moment
finfan72 years ago
Saul came to my university and gave that same presentation. I'm glad to see there might be some competition forming against him.
acs12073 years ago
Can't a photovoltaic cell be used in addition to the turbine?
that would only give any advantage if you were flying your kite above the clouds. PV is heavy and there would be no real advantage having it 40 meters up in the air.
It would be heavy.
pdionne2 years ago
Great! It got the wheels turning in my head. Wish I had the room to try it.
bwells23 years ago
This instructable reminds me of Benjamin Franklin
NeMewSys3 years ago
cool idea...
wouldnt it make more sense to use 2 steel insulated wire instead of strings (one positive and one negative) and keep the battery on the ground? That should reduce weight on the kite and result in less wasted energy.
robotkid249 (author)  Electroinnovation3 years ago
Yup. I think I mentioned that in step 5.
Ahhhh the only step I didn't read. Hahaha sorry about that
Kiteman3 years ago
Oh, I like this, but I have questions:

How much harder is the kite to control than usual? I'd imagine that the weight of the batteries and motors, not to mention the drag of the blades, would play merry wossisname with the balance and control - did it?

Does it need more wind than usual to get/stay airborne?

What is the actual output? How long does it take to charge your batteries (and what size were the batteries?)?

If you're going to work this into a portable generator (how cool would it be to go on a hiking holiday and use a kite to charge your iPod?) you're going to have to account for crossed and twisted lines, both in terms of shorts and metal fatigue. Insulation is going to dramatically increase the weight of the lines - I wonder how possible a woven spectra line with copper woven into the inner core would be?

robotkid249 (author)  Kiteman3 years ago
Yeah sure. It's a litter bit heavier. You have to get the balance of the weight correctly or it will fly erratically. The size of the propellers didn't seem to slow it down that much..

Anything that is heavier that it was designed to be will need more wind speed to get airborne, but it did not seem to be a problem. It will take like 12 mph instead of 10 mph to take off.

It is a 1.5 to 3 volt rated motor. When I first flew it, I stopped because I saw smoke coming from the motors when I did loops! Yeah! At that point, I realized regulation and the right wind speed is really really important. I am not sure how long it would take to charge, but after that experience I would say pretty quickly.

Wow! That's awesome! Could you use conductive thread from the Lilypad?
I don't know how conductive it is (would you lose too much energy conducting the electricity to the ground?), or even what length it comes in.

It's worth looking at, though.
kelseymh3 years ago
Extremely well written, detailed background! And I like the mix of working photos and drawings you used, to ensure that the important parts are as clear as possible for the reader.

Do you have sources (links) for the history which you could provide for readers interested in more information? I really appreciate that you wrote this up yourself (or at least did not copy it from an online source :-). Was this for a term project or something similar?

Do you have any data from flight tests? What sort of output do you get (voltage, current) as a function of wind speed or/and altitude? How unstable is the output over time (varying by minute, or just by hour)?
robotkid249 (author)  kelseymh3 years ago
Thanks very much! Yeah, I wrote this all myself in addition to a 24 page paper on the topic for an international fair. I will update the instructable as time goes on, but thank you so much for the comment. I will have some more information and results data in time to come.
Very cool! You should mention that in the introduction :-) Is there any chance the paper is available on a public Web site somewhere? If so, I think a link to it would be excellent.

By the way, you don't need to do the "endnote URL" stuff. You can make active hyperlinks in your document by clicking on the "globe with chains" icon after highlighting the text you want to be the link. Then put the URL into the pop-up box and click OK.
robotkid249 (author)  kelseymh3 years ago
Possibly thanks : )

I will fix the URLs now...