The Delft start-up Kitepower has started a crowdfunding campaign to continue Wubbo Ockels’ legacy. A kite connected by a line to a winch in a shipping container could supply 150 households with electricity. CEO Johannes Peschel: “We can innovate much faster.”
In a large shed not far from TU Delft, Peschel shows the gigantic kite that should generate 100 kW per year. In addition, a folded copy lies in an oversized carrying case. The associated container with the actual generator is somewhat larger, but easily movable.
The system consists of a kite that is connected to a generator with a winch. The kite circles in eights, generating energy. Various pilots have now been run with it, including in Aruba, where the kite could supply energy to houses that are not connected to the electricity grid.
Peschel was an avid kite-flyer when he broke his arm. In the hospital he decided to continue his hobby in a different way. This led him on the trail of astronaut Wubbo Ockels, who had developed an energy-generating ladder mill in Delft. High in the atmosphere the wind is stronger. The energy in wind scales with the third power and you can use that, Ockels thought.
Longer life span
For the time being, Kitepower focuses on niche markets, such as festivals and other events that temporarily require power. Installing the system takes less than half a day. The kite doesn’t make a lot of noise and Peschel has seen little impact on the bird population, “although we need to investigate that better”.
The company sees great opportunities for microgrids: local energy systems that can function independently. At the moment, that market is still dominated by diesel generators, but Kitepower’s mobile containers are a sustainable alternative. For the past five years, the company has worked with the Ministry of Defense to deploy its power units militarily in hard-to-reach and inhospitable areas.
‘Kite flow’ could eventually be used more widely. The number of wind turbines is growing and their lifespan is thirty to forty years, which means that most of them will have to be replaced around 2050. “Our system consists of 90 to 95 percent less material than comparable wind turbines, the service life is longer and repairs are cheaper.”
To enter the market, Kitepower needs an investment of seven hundred thousand euros. They hope to raise that money through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Previously, the company raised 4.1 million in this way.
Kitepower is certainly not the first Dutch company that wants to generate electricity in the air. Despite thirteen years of prototype development, Ampyx Power failed to bring commercial models to market and went bankrupt. “I have a lot of respect for what they have done,” said Peschel. “But their system was too complicated.”
The CEO sees the future of his company mainly in the field of controlling software and less in the development of kites. Partners might be able to do that much better. “You have to replace these kites after a year because of wear and tear. But they are cheap and that means that, unlike with wind turbines, you can innovate much faster.”
Activity: Development of Mobile Energy Systems
Number of employees: 12
Next step: commercial rollout
This article also appears in the October issue of Emerce magazine #191.
Source: Nieuws – Emerce by www.emerce.nl.
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