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Energy from High-Altitude Kites

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the sky-dragon dept.

Science 288

maddmike writes "High altitude kites could produce energy equal to some power stations at a comparable cost without polluting. The technique uses a thing dubbed a 'Laddermill' - a chain of kites attached together to create a loop in the sky more than 5 miles long."

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The altitude isn't... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240439)

the only thing that is high.

WHAT ABOUT THE POWER OF KIKES (-1, Troll)

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how? why? (0)

Alias777 (841435) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240440)

How does this differ from regular windmills?

Re:how? why? (2, Informative)

lakin (702310) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240467)

Most windmills arnt 30,000ft tall, and at that altitude the winds are 20 times more powerful than at sea level. (from the article..)

how? why?-Air pollution. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240469)

"How does this differ from regular windmills?"

More surface area. The overall thing I'm worried about is the upcoming pollution of the airspace. Kind of what happened to outerspace.

Re:how? why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240474)

Four letters, first one R, last one A.

Re:how? why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240531)

RIAA?

Re:how? why? (3, Informative)

Ape_the_Dog (749745) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240495)

"Winds at 30,000ft are 20 times more powerful than at sea level."

It differs from regular windmills in that you should have read the article.

High altitude == better efficiency (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240570)

Low to the ground, air friction with the ground slows the air considerably. Goiung higher helps.

Since the power in the air is proportional to the cube of the speed, all speed up helps.

Re:High altitude == better efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240758)

And the power is also proportional to the density of the air.

Air Hazzard. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240443)

""High altitude kites could produce energy equal to some power stations at a comparable cost without polluting. The technique uses a thing dubbed a 'Laddermill' - a chain of kites attached together to create a loop in the sky more than 5 miles long."

I'm certain pilots worldwide are going to love this.

And just wait till we get flying cars.

Re:Air Hazzard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240465)

RTFA.

Re:Air Hazzard. (3, Informative)

lpangelrob2 (721920) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240480)

Mmm... mods on crack.

The Laddermill would only be flown where aircraft are banned. One such area is the zone along the US-Mexican border, where high-flying balloons fitted with radar are used to combat drug traffickers.

It's not even slashdotted. Yet.

Air Hazzard-Failure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240619)

"It's not even slashdotted. Yet."

*sob!*

We failed!

Re:Air Hazzard. (2, Funny)

lakin (702310) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240486)

"The Laddermill would only be flown where aircraft are banned. One such area is the" white house.

Air Hazzard... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240671)

"One such area is the" white house."

How do you fly the white house?

Re:Air Hazzard. (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240503)

"I'm certain pilots worldwide are going to love this."

From TFA:

"The Laddermill would only be flown where aircraft are banned. One such area is the zone along the US-Mexican border, where high-flying balloons fitted with radar are used to combat drug traffickers."

Lots of possible problems. (2, Informative)

wasted (94866) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240770)

Most of the places where aircraft are banned are due to other dangerous activities, such as live weapons testing. Not a good place to put infrastructure.

As far as the balloons on the border, here is an example from the descriptions on the appropriate aeronautical charts (referring to the few balloons on the border) -

CAUTION UNMARKED BALLOON AND CABLE TO 15000 FEET IN R-6317

The entries for the few other sites list alitudes of 14000 or 15000 feet. The chart doesn't say that aircraft are banned, but most pilots would avoid flying around the balloons just to be safe. In any case, it probably isn't a good idea to put kites on a cable in the same place as balloons on a cable, due to the risk of becoming entangled.

My personal guess is that the FAA will shoot this project down well before it gets off of the ground, unless the kites are equipped with transponders (since they will be in CLASS A* airspace) and lights (so that pilots flying VFR can see and avoid).

* For those without an aviation background, all aircraft in CLASS A airspace are required to fly instrument rules, have transponders, and are controlled by controllers on the ground. In the US, Class A airspace is all airspace between FL180 (about 18,000 feet) and FL600 (about 60,000 feet).

kites (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240444)

damn druids always kiting me

Are your crazy!? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240446)

One strong gust of wind and the earth could start spinning the other way.

Re:Are your crazy!? (5, Funny)

mrgrey (319015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240471)

One strong gust of wind and the earth could start spinning the other way.

Well, at least we'd be moving back in time so we'd be able to fix it.

Re:Are your crazy!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240500)

Yes, Mr. Spock! I mean Grey.

Without polluting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240456)

Sory, but there is still the pollution of the sky with man's stuff to worry about. If you put these in the air then it's essentially the same as the windmill problem only in the air. Granted, they'd be harder to see, but still there. But it's good to see that there are still solutions being envisioned and promoted that can help to save our planet.

Re:Without polluting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240514)

the only way to save it is to get rid of things like energy and industry and technology.
thinking that technology will solve the problems technology has created is a pipe dream.

a distinction should be drawn between tools (or implements) and technology. tools are things such as canes and canoes, the digging sticks and walls; all things a single individual could make.
technology is a social system which creates division of labor/production/industrialism, and all the negative things that go with it.

Re:Without polluting... (2, Insightful)

hhawk (26580) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240615)

Exactly, they say,

"Professor Ockels says a few hundred of the installations, each requiring some 400 kites with 27ft wingspans, could generate enough electricity to supply the needs of a city the size of Seattle. The cost would be similar to that of generating power with polluting fossil fuels."

At a few hundred per city... that is a lot of kites..

Then you have to find the places to put them...

"The Laddermill would only be flown where aircraft are banned. One such area is the zone along the US-Mexican border, where high-flying balloons fitted with radar are used to combat drug traffickers."

Re:Without polluting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240696)

"The Laddermill would only be flown where aircraft are banned. One such area is the zone along the US-Mexican border"

Well, I guess they could have chosen somewhere further than Seattle... but sheesh. :)

Ben Franklin (0, Redundant)

solid (15355) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240458)

Somehow I doubt this is what Ben Franklin had in mind...

Re:Ben Franklin (1)

goofyheadedpunk (807517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240504)

Ben Franklin didn't do his kite experiments to produce electricity. In fact he did his kite experiments in order to show that static electricity and lightening were indeed a facet of the same thing, electro-magnetism as we now know.

See the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for more details.

Re:Ben Franklin (2, Informative)

DrLZRDMN (728996) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240578)

actually, Ben Franklin didn't do his kite experiment at all.

Re:Ben Franklin (2, Funny)

qbol (845684) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240579)

I thought Franklin flew the kite because he needed 1.21 gigawatts in order to send the DeLorean back to the future to pick up a load of cocaine or something like that.

Re:Ben Franklin (2, Insightful)

Omniscientist (806841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240764)

Well, speaking of that experiment, I wonder if a blast of lightning would cause either even more power to be created or just screw up everything?

Feasable? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240460)

Could this type of system withstand a strong storm system? Electrical energy, very high wind speeds...

Re:Feasable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240551)

withstand a storm system? It depends on one!

Re:Feasable? (2, Informative)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240568)

If you had RTFA, they said it would only be flown during fair weather and the kites would be adapted to that days wind conditions.

Most weather systems (clouds) below 30ft (1)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240574)

Most weather systems are located in the troposphere which is less than 30ft. Not many clouds are located are such high except cirrus which do not carry electrical charges.

Re:Most weather systems (clouds) below 30ft (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240608)

I think you mean 30 thousand feet

Re:Most weather systems (clouds) below 30ft (1)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240625)

yes, 30k feet. I swear I am not drinking.

Re:Feasable? (4, Informative)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240737)

This is a really interesting concept. The designers say they won't fly the kite except in good weather so they won't have to worry about electrical storms etc. but I wonder if they have considered the atmosphere's natural electric field as well... It is estimated that the natural electric field potential between the earth's surface and the ionosphere is in the hundreds of thousands of volts range. While the current is usually very low for small but rather tall structures (regular kites, radio towers etc.) I would imagine that having a huge 5 mile wide kite 30 thousand!! feet up would make an immense difference in the current transmitted through a conducting wire to the ground. We may be talking about tens or perhaps even hundreds (??) of watts here. This will have to be dealt with and I imagine it could actually be used to perhaps, power some backup or secondary control equipment way up there.

what a name (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240463)

What do you expect from a guy named Wubbo Ockels?

Re:what a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240593)

Well, he was the first from Holland to be shot into orbit, I met him personally once, quite a nice guy, a bit odd, but not a nutter.

Re:what a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240778)

His name's actually "Wubbo Ockels (correct)".

He obviously encounters this aura of disbelief frequently.

Rule #1 about High-Altitude Kites (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240464)

Do NOT talk about High-Altitude Kites

Rule #2 about Kite Club (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240663)

You DO NOT talk about Kite Club.

Rule #1 about Fight Club jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240741)

Don't tell Fight Club jokes.

Hey Ben... (3, Funny)

helioquake (841463) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240470)

What would Benjamin Franklin have to say about this?

Re:Hey Ben... (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240490)

I know the topic has nothing to do with lightning (but it is to do with kites). Oh and don't waste your karma points there...

Re:Hey Ben... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240643)

The trick is that at 30000ft, that "ladder" is going to become a really good lightning rod, intentional or not. Even if it is completely insulated, water is going to build up on that thing and ...zot...

Is there anyone here with sufficient knowldege of atmospheric electrostatic effects to say how much direct electrical power can be gotten out of a piece of wire 30KFeet blowing in the wind? I'm thinking that this thing would be a monster Van De Graaff generator.

Re:Hey Ben... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240508)

ZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP??

Re:Hey Ben... (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240559)

we would point to the kites and say:
"You know what that is? It's Patent infringment, thats what that is!"

Re:Hey Ben... (1)

cmacb (547347) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240563)

His results were shocking.

(or the whole thing is a myth)

Re:Hey Ben... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240586)

Actually, this is a story that has been exggerated for a long time. He actually few the kite just BEFORE the storm, not during it, so as to attract charged particles in the air to the key.

Re:Hey Ben... (0, Flamebait)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240587)

Not much considering he is dead. Its like "WWJD". Jesus would do nothing. He is also dead. Corpses don't contribute to society that much.

Re:Hey Ben... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240721)

Let us PARTY! like it was 1776

but why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240472)

we dont need it. let's just get rid of energy, computers, etc. go back to living in a world where you know your neighbors.

Re:but why? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240698)

let's just get rid of energy, computers, etc. go back to living in a world where you know your neighbors.

I do know my neighbors, and they suck. I hope they goddamn die. I get to listen to their lameness all the time through cardboard walls. Happy fucking new year.

Article skimpy on details ( as usual ) (5, Insightful)

goofyheadedpunk (807517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240476)

The article doesn't say much about how such a structure could be maintained. How in the world could kites stay up for a long enough period to be feasible as a power source? Or is all this still in the "just five more years" phase?

I'd like learn more, but the article is not very helpful.

nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240541)

since when does the industrial world care about maintaining itself?

we are destorying the world and each other, but who cares as long as we can have a nice hummer or the latest version of linux?

Re:Article skimpy on details ( as usual ) (5, Informative)

zoeith (785087) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240694)

Check out http://www.laddermill.com/. [laddermill.com] I think it will be awesome to see these generating a city's power one day.
Side note. Kinda funny how it is being developed for high altitude in the Netherlands.

Official Website (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240700)

For more details, check the official website, cleverly titled:

http://www.laddermill.com/

or, for that matter, do a Google search for "laddermill":

http://www.google.com/search?q=laddermill

Now how hard was that?

Tension in the wire (4, Interesting)

karvind (833059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240482)

I wonder if they have done calculations regarding the tension in the looped cables for flying kites at that height (30,000 ft according to the article).

Also what will happen if the cable snaps. They worry about the kite, what about the heavy cables falling and destroying things down here.

With these cables how are they going to fly the kite from the ground ? Will they use turbines from the military planes to blow air ?

Anyone has more information about it ?

-a

Re:Tension in the wire (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240557)

Helium? Hot air?

Tension must be horrendous (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240761)

I cant imagine how much tension you'd need to transfer that kind of energy over that kind of distance. That would surely require a very heavy cable.

Hmm (1)

wizardNinja (835459) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240497)

Well, it sounds like a good idea, but some faults, too.
One thing it said was that it could not be flown where pilots fly- this cuts down the number of places it can be flown by a lot.
And 27 foot wingspans ??? Hope it doesnt fall on any cardboard houses!

Global Stasis? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240511)

Don't worry, if it's successful it's not pollution we'll have to worry about - it'll be the fact that they absorb all the energy of the wind, mess up the climate, and then cause all sorts of weather anomalies. Instead of global warming, we'll have...global "stasis?"

Good point. (1)

Draconix (653959) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240580)

I hadn't even thought of that, but yes, we would likely screw something up with too many of them, as we would be leeching energy from one of the most important systems in the atmosphere. There's a lot of energy up there, but removing even small amounts might have pretty adverse effects.

Re:Global Stasis? (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240589)

I don't think you could stop the wind, but if you did affect them, you'd have cooler poles and a hotter equator.

Difficult but could be promising (5, Informative)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240524)

Flying kites at high altitude isn't as easy as it seem: pretty soon you get a lot of problem from the line(s), chiefly the weight of the line, but also line drag.

The former problem is essentially a strength vs. weight problem that even high tensile lines made of dyneema won't solve easily (above 400/500m, a 6m parafoil can very well sit there and refuse to climb with standard lines).

The latter problem introduces a problem of angle, since the line becomes curved under the wind drag, which makes the section right under the kite more and more vertical as it climbs, which in turn "flattens" its incidence angle and reduces its lift. It's always possible to modify the incidence on the ground to compensate, but takeoff can get dicey then. And of course, the wind drag on the line also tends to pull the kite down, and it's not negligible with a lot of line up.

So yes, it should be possible to use kites to generate power, but there will have to be a great deal of electronic magic to regulate everything, down on the ground and up in the air, if high altitude flying is to be more than stunts performed by enthusiasts on good days with (semi-)controlled conditions.

Re:Difficult but could be promising (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240602)

So yes, it should be possible to use kites to generate power, but there will have to be a great deal of electronic magic to regulate everything

That's why we're engineers. When we need someone to craft commentary on the whole thing, we'll...well... we'll probably do that ourselves, too. At any rate, we don't need you.

Trains beat single kites (5, Informative)

DevilsEngine (581977) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240632)

Kite trains, or stacks, readily soar to heights greater than what can be attained with a single kite.

The record, set back in 1969, is 10,830 m abg. So the 30,000 ft mark has already been surpassed.

The single kite record stands at around 13K feet.

Re:Difficult but could be promising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240669)

Moderators, keep in mind that this guy is a well known troll (check his history) before you award him too much. Otherwise he'll just be around forever like the rest of them.

Re:Difficult but could be promising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240714)

Moderators, keep in mind that the parent poster is didn't check who that supposed "troll" is and what he does, and is just talking out of his arse.

High altitude kiss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240528)

I recieved some energy from a high altitude kiss before. She was on her way to the lavatory and she gave me "the eye" as she passed, so I rather nonchalantly got up to go "relieve myself" as well... Oh, wait... that says KITES, dosen't it? Nevermind...

Links for the lazy (5, Informative)

spudchucker (680073) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240534)

  1. Laddermill - - - - - [laddermill.com]
  2. Google - Images - [google.com]

Re:Links for the lazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240610)

Also look up a Catherine's Wheel or a Bol. There are many kites that can generate the same motions.

Re:Links for the lazy (1)

spud603 (832173) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240765)

at first i was skeptical, but after seeing the picture, i just really want to see one in real life..feasible or not.

instead of wind-power (3, Interesting)

BoomTechnology (832547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240540)

why not use the kites to collect solar energy? Although, I don't know how better/worse this would be, but it could free up a lot of land needed to maintain solar panels - and depending on how high the kites are, could they could collect energy in nasty weather! With regards to aircraft, I'd say make these power-gathering areas no-fly zones -- otherwise how different is it from a field of broadcast towers?

"Equal to some power stations"? (4, Insightful)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240550)

What power stations are these? According to the article, a city like Seattle would require on the scale of a hundred thousand of these kites (or hundreds of plants with 400 kites each) to supply the city with electricity. And when you consider the limits to where these could be place (airspaces are out, along with any place where something could be damaged should one of these guys go down), this isn't a very feasible way to replace our current power system.

What they were saying was equal was the cost, not the total output per kite.

Re:"Equal to some power stations"? (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240633)

"And when you consider the limits to where these could be place (airspaces are out"

String them up all along the borders of the continental USA and it'd be a great bonus for homeland security. Keep those pesky terrorists out as well as those pesky tourists, heck its all 'stranger danger'!

Kites to the rescue!

Five miles high (3, Interesting)

Degrees (220395) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240583)

TFA said the cable would let the kites fly five miles high - not that the cable was five miles long.

This means the cable is actually ten-plus miles long. I don't remember my differential equations from twenty years ago, but I do know that as the cable gets longer (goes higher), the amount of weight supported increases. So half the loop is a five mile strand going up, and the other half is five miles of cable coming down. It sure seems like the weight on the top kites would be extraordinary. Do we have carbon-fiber cable yet?

And what happens when lighting hits it? Didn't Tesla manage some stunning current with a structure less tall than this?

Re:Five miles high (1)

confusion (14388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240613)

Colleting lightning & static electricity from friction would almost be worth pursuing on top of the rotation, if the system were to actually and be sustainable.

Jerry
http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

Re:Five miles high (4, Funny)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240656)

And what happens when lighting hits it?


that's called free extra power :)

Easy sabotage target. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240588)

I would look for traditonal fossil fuel burning companies (who would be threatened by competition) to be doing the actual sabotaging, instead of the initially obvious terrorists.

More trouble than its worth (2, Insightful)

confusion (14388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240600)

I'm really picturing this being quite the Rube Goldberg contraption. Maintaining such a system of giant kites in such strong winds is going to be a problem, as is lightning, storms, etc.

The nice thing about some of the other alternative power systems is that they tend to be smaller scale and are backed up by the power grid or some other form of generation. If you have a 100MW kite system, it would be such a substantial source of power that providing a backup to it when there is no wind or the cable breaks, will not be trivial.

Jerry
http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

More trouble than its worth-Air caps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240651)

Why not use the differential between the earth and the air? Lightning proves that there's significent power on both sides of an insulator. A grid collector is also easier to keep up.

Re:More trouble than its worth-Air caps. (1)

confusion (14388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240673)

I had actually mentioned that in another post. Lightning and static from friction would be a way to boost the output of the system, but it doesn't make it any less cumbersome of a system.

Jerry
http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

Re:More trouble than its worth (2, Funny)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240712)

Maintaining such a system of giant kites in such strong winds is going to be a problem, as is lightning, storms, etc.

And if they install some along the US/Mexico border as the article suggests then there's also drug-smuggling aircraft.

This just in... The city of Dallas was plunged into darkness when a kite was struck by a cocaine-laden aircraft.

Very short on details (2, Insightful)

wyldeone (785673) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240611)

The article is very short on details. For instance, how will they obtain the the power if the kites are floating hundreds or thousands of feet in the air? Unless their tethered, in which case on whose land would they be tethered? And what would they do when the wind drops?

Re:Very short on details (3, Funny)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240755)

"Unless their tethered"

I can just see the engineers standing slackjawed as they watch their kites go awol. Gee Herb, I thought it was your job to tie the string.

So, how many are we going to have in Florida? (1)

killa62 (828317) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240626)

They'll generate an enourmous amount of power during hurricane season?
1. Buy kites
2. Build kite wind farm in Florida.
3. ???
4. PROFIT!

Worlds Larget Lighting Rod (1, Redundant)

codepunk (167897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240657)

Behold the worlds largest lighting rod, how do they hope to manage that little problem?

Re:Worlds Larget Lighting Rod (1)

epall (632054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240744)

Set up a substation to convert the lightning into power!

degrees (1)

thenewcloo (789980) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240662)

He said: "As a kiteflier I have learned that what can go wrong will go wrong. I wonder about what happens if the line breaks. It appears the assumption made is that the kites will still fly in an upright and stable position. What if they, for example, turn 180 degrees to the wind and fly downwind and actually accelerate in speed to the ground?" Wouldn't the kites have to turn 90 degrees??? (pi/2 radians???)

yeah...okay...whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11240668)

maddmike and Roland Piquepaille have obviously been smoking out of the same bag

I think that the Europeans... (4, Funny)

Spock the Baptist (455355) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240675)

...took the US a little too serously when we told them to go fly a kite.

(ducking)

Can't see the wood for the trees... (5, Informative)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240686)

The inherent problems are astronomical - lift/weight ratio of kite-to-cable, vast amounts of airspace used etc. - but even the most basic feasibility requirements of this project cannot be met.

Have a look at some of the plans and protoype pics of this behemoth, and it becomes clear (if not in the article) that the intention is for the ladder to be ground-originated, not just ground-anchored. This means the kites are travelling up from the ground to 5 miles and back again. The volume occupied by such a structure - especially one as non-static as this - would be monumental, not to mention the massive safety margin required to have more than one in operation within a few miles of any other ladder.

So if we're looking at 400 ladders to generate enough to power a city, we're look at a good 3000+ square miles of land if we're to be sure that no ladder is to collide with another. Not practical on any scale, I suspect.

Now if we're to be sure the things don't come down every time there's a spot of bad weather, we are looking at getting them up above the common cloud-cover atmospheric strata. In that case, why the hell not just use bigger kites, no ridiculous ladder-arrangement, and use the kite-wing surface-area to convert solar-energy? If the kites are well-engineered and -controlled enough to be able to operate in such a stringently unified fashion, I'm sure the same technology could be used to keep solar-kites in the air. True, the strain on the cables would be even greater if they have to be reliable electrical conduits as well, but that's really only one of several major flaws in this project.

Frankly, we'd be better off burning drug-addled research-scientists as fuel. They're renewable, at least.

Ben (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240704)

Get ol' Ben to hold on to this kite...

uhuh, yeah, great idea, but.. (2, Funny)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240733)

I say we just take the people who came up with this and chain them to an exercise bike for power, anyone with me?

High-tension lines (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240743)

Since these will be flown in areas that aircraft are banned, wont you need a huge network of high tension lines to get the energy anywhere.

This idea seems very far-fetched (1)

Roginator (540832) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240747)

I have a better plan! Set up giant lightning rods in lightning-prone areas with cabling that extends deep underground to chambers filled with water. Use the resulting steam to power turbines. Presto!

ed (0, Flamebait)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11240749)

... Team leader Professor Wubbo Ockels (correct) was inspired by making and flying powerful high-flying kites as a boy. ...

Is that an editors comment accidently left in or are they saying this guy has a really funny name?
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