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First Flight for Kite Power System in North Sea

By The Maritime Executive 08-20-2019 06:13:01

The first flights of Makani’s energy kite from a floating platform took place earlier this month in the North Sea.

The system, being developed in partnership with Shell and with support from the Norwegian Offshore Wind Cluster, consists of a tethered wing designed to harness wind power in waters too deep for fixed wind turbines. The kite is installed on a floating platform, and its autonomous flight system is designed to control flight from a moving base station. 

While the two test flights were successful, the landing afterwards was not, and the kite was lost. Makani is now analyzing working to improve the system. Next steps include additional flights onshore in Hawaii and offshore in Norway with a focus on flying in a range of environmental conditions and perfecting landings at sea. 

Makani CEO Fort Felker remains positive about the technology. “Hundreds of millions of people live within 25 miles of a coastline where winds are strong and steady, but two-thirds of coastal waters globally are too deep for today’s wind technology to economically access these resources. This is where we think Makani can help.”

Makani’s kites are 90 percent lighter than turbines of a similar power rating and the overall system is smaller, replacing tons of steel with lightweight electronics and smart software.

“The low mass of our kite and our correspondingly-low materials and installation costs make it possible for Makani’s airborne wind power system to take advantage of existing infrastructure and supply chains,” he says. “This means energy kites can be deployed from small and medium-sized ports around the globe, without the need for specialized vessels or massive cranes. For this recent demonstration at the Marine Energy Test Centre in Norway, we transported our airframe on a flatbed trailer, used a commonly available mobile boom crane to lift the kite onto its perch, and in one smooth operation using two coastal tug boats we installed the kite and spar offshore at a water depth of 220 meters.”

Makani is an independent company founded by Alphabet (Google), based in California.