Natural Power helps win world’s first consent for kite-power energy in Scotland

A Kite Power test flight
A Kite Power test flight

Scottish renewable energy consultancy Natural Power has secured what is believed to be the world’s first planning consent for a kite power technology test and development site.

The application was made on behalf of Kite Power Solutions  for the test and development site at the West Freugh Range, operated by QinetiQ on behalf of MoD, near Stranraer in Dumfries-shire.

Founded in 2011, Kite Power was established to develop a deep water wind energy technology that can be deployed anywhere in the world at a cost that is able to compete with the lowest cost fossil fuel energy systems.

Kite Power has already designed, built and demonstrated a 40kW proof of concept system, regularly flying at its current base at Bradwell airfield in Essex. A 500kW pre-commercial demonstration system has also been designed.

Oil giant Shell and the UK’s Department of Energy have supported the £3 million development so far. In February 2016, a KPS led consortium was awarded a £1 million Innovate UK Energy Catalyst grant towards the test site within MoD West Freugh Range.

Once the company has secured the required £5.5 million investment, the next phase of development will commence, and this includes relocation to the West Freugh site which already has ‘controlled airspace’ status, and will enable testing of the kites at heights up to 500m.

By 2021 Kite Power intends to have its 500kW system available for commercial sale, and will have deployed a floating 3MW system.

KPS currently employs a team of 10 skilled technology development professionals including experts in aeronautics, neural network software, mechanical engineers, atmospheric physics and sail makers, and this is expected to increase to 19 by the end of 2016, and to double again to 39 by 2018.

David Ainsworth, Business Development Director, Kite Power, said: “Natural Power was the obvious choice to support us with the West Freugh project. So far we have been overwhelmed by the warm reception we have received for our plans in Dumfries and Galloway. The whole team is looking forward to relocating to this beautiful area of Scotland and developing this world changing technology in this tremendous environment.”

The ambition is to harvest the strong, reliable winds found offshore by tethering two kites to each mooring to capture the wind. Each kite flies in a figure of eight, drawing out the tether and generating power at the winch. When it has reached its maximum height – likely to be 450m – the kite switches to a hover-like mode, where there is little stress on the tether and it can be winched back in ready for the next run, using just a fraction of the power already generated.

Power is delivered continuously because one kite is generating as the other is winched in. Ultimately, the plan is to have scores of kites flying in formation, all automatically controlled using custom-made software.

The kites at full-scale will be 40m wide with 2-3MW capacity, about the same as a 100m-tall conventional turbine. So far, KPS have tested prototypes of 7m span rated at 40kW.

Euan Hutchison, Natural Power’s Principal Consultant – Planning and Environment Services, said: “This is an exciting and innovative technology, which has the potential to bring significant community benefits to the area, including employment and investment, as a key local business, we welcome supporting KPS on this innovative project with our industry leading expertise”..

“Our locally based ecologists are already on the ground at West Freugh to determine a plan of action for understanding, assessing and mitigating any specific risks to local wildlife, and we are keen to engage with local stakeholders to help bring this exciting development to fruition.”

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