Dumfries and Galloway-based renewable energy consultant Natural Power has been appointed by Kite Power Solutions to support proposals for approving a test and development site at RAF West Freugh, near Stranraer.
The plan 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 at about 450 metres, 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 40 metres wide with 2-3MW capacity, about the same as a 100 metre-tall conventional turbine. So far, KPS have tested prototypes of 7 metres span rated at 40kW.
Founded in 2011, KPS 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.
KPS has already designed, built and demonstrated a 40kW proof of concept system, regularly flying at its current base, Bradwell-On-Sea airfield in Essex. A 500kW pre-commercial demonstration system has also been designed.
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 500 metres.
The West Freugh location was selected after extensive consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority. A rolling five year lease for the demonstration test site was signed in February 2016, with first kite system flying on the site expected in April 2017.
Oil major Royal Dutch Shell and the Department of Energy (DECC) have supported the £3 million development so far. In February, a Kite Power-led consortium was awarded a £1 million Innovate UK Energy Catalyst grant towards the West Freugh development.
Euan Hutchison, Natural Power’s Principal Consultant – Planning and Development 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, should permission be granted.
“Our ecologists are already on the ground at West Freugh to determine a plan of action for mitigating any risks to local wildlife, and we are keen to engage with local stakeholders to help bring this exciting development to fruition.”
Kite Power currently employs a team of 10 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 further to 39 by 2018.
David Ainsworth, Business Development Director, at KPS said: “With Natural Power’s extensive experience in the wind energy sector and its demonstrated ability to support other innovative renewable energy technologies, Natural Power was the obvious choice to support us with the West Freugh project.”