Thursday, May 8, 2008

KiteGen vs Wind Turbine Feasibility in Texas

Wind turbines are limited by the material requirements and wind speeds. The ability to produce electricity comparable to a coal power plant is not feasible with the implementation of wind farms because of the large use of land and material expenses. KiteGen takes advantage of the wind speeds in the troposphere hundreds of meters high through the use of kites since they maximize lift against drag from the wind (KiteGen, 2007). The motion of the kites is controlled at the base.

Installing three KiteGen plants would produce about 3 GW of electricity which is almost equivalent to the electricity produced by the WA Parish Station, the largest fossil fuel plant in the Texas (EIA, 2008). When a KiteGen plant is working at optimal capacity, the carbon dioxide offset is determined to be 2000 pounds for 1 GWh of electricity (DOE, EPA, 2000).

The founders of KiteGen have built a small scale prototype used to model an estimate cost of a 200 kW scale project.

“With a kite area of 50 m2, simulations give about 200 kW power generated with 12 m/s wind speed. A wind turbine of the same power is 40 m high, weighs about 62 t and costs about 900.000,00 Euros (1.4 million U.S. dollars). The expected KiteGen weight and cost are about 8 t and 60.000,00 Euros (93600 U.S. dollars) respectively.” (Canale, Fagiano, & Milanese, 2006)

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts wind turbines to a maximum height of 500 ft. Lighting guidelines have also been set forth for wind turbines which can be applied to KiteGen but height requirements will still have to be altered. The height of the kites can reach over 1,000 meters (m), which is equivalent to 3,280 ft. KiteGen power plants reach altitudes at least 6 times greater than current maximum wind turbine height restrictions in place today. A solution to this dilemma is requesting no fly zone permit. These permits are normally issued to areas such as nuclear power plants, oil refineries, and near the president (KiteGen, 2007).

There are many benefits to installing KiteGen power plants. Wind turbines are affected by wind intermittency unlike KiteGen. The high elevations allow the KiteGen system to provide energy at all times during the day except in the case of rain weather. KiteGen uses much less land than wind turbines due to lack of shading, thus, allowing more plant installations in a given area. The FAA regulations may prevent immediate installation of KiteGen, but as soon as the benefits are witnessed, implementation will not be far away. The KiteGen system proves superior compared to wind turbines after considering the cost, land used, material, velocities reached and ultimate energy generated.

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