The kite sail rose from the grass and starts swinging slowly. It looked clumsy and heavy, but as it gained height one of the researchers smiled confidently: “It will fly.”
I witnessed a demonstration of this promising new technology in May. Against the sky, the large black and white sail was certainly a striking sight. You see similar kites pulling surfers, but here in a field not far from the aerospace engineering department of the Technology University in Delft, the Netherlands, this kite sail is clearly not for sport.
“With a 25 square metre sail like that we can produce enough energy to cover the needs of 40 households, with less [environmental] impact than a conventional windmill and at reduced costs,” says Roland Schmehl at TU Delft.
According to Schmehl, airborne energy production can be cleaner, cheaper and more effective than conventional wind power generation. “It’s now clear that the world needs more energy from renewables. And we need the progress to be faster. Wind is an important resource that so far has been limited, because conventional wind turbines just scratch off the bottom layer of what is actually available in the atmosphere.”