Why tap a trickle, if you could tap a torrent? That's the idea behind Italian company KiteGen's new system for harvesting strong-blowing, high-altitude winds. Their system would fly tethered kites 2,624 feet into the air where they would harness winds that are, on average, six miles per hour faster than wind harnessed by stationary turbines on the ground. The kites would attach to mechanical arms and be flown over a predetermined flight path to maximize torque while taking advantage of stronger wind.
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According to KiteGen's calculations, the technology could help lower energy costs to between $0.02 and $0.05 per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to $0.05 and $0.09 per kWh for fossil fuel and $0.15 per kWh for current wind turbines.
On top of potentially being more efficient than wind turbines, the system would take up less space than convential wind farms. A 1,000 megawatt (MW) wind farm can cover up to 186 square miles, while KiteGen's says their system would take up as little as 3.5 square miles for the same output.
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While KiteGen's system is still in the development stage, the company is attempting to fund the first full-sized model with plans for an off-shore system also in the works.