Mega-sized kites that generate energy hundreds of metres up in the sky. That is the groundbreaking idea behind the Delft-based start-up, Kitepower. Inventor and founder Johannes Peschel: ‘The first commercial model will be ready in late 2018 and we hope to have sold six kites.’
Kitepower has had the wind in its sails in recent years. In 2014, it received millions in funding from the European Commission and last year they won the Ministry of Defence’s Dutch Innovation Competition (DIC) – an initiative sponsored by V.O. The company is currently also in the final round of the 2017 edition of the Accenture Innovation Awards. Originally from Berlin, Johannes Peschel is mad about kites and kite-surfing, and recognised the opportunities for wind power using kites years ago. ‘I found out that there was a lot of expertise in this field at Delft University of Technology, partly thanks to a research group led by Wubbo Ockels.’ He moved to Delft and fully engaged in the project. Together with his professor, he then founded the start-up Kitepower, which operates from the university’s campus.
‘This technology will develop further especially through sharing research and working collaboratively’Johannes Peschel – Kitepower
Wind turbines are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. Peschel: ‘The potential of our approach really is a no-brainer for me. You need only half the material costs for our kites and just ten percent of the maintenance costs, while the energy yield is higher.’ It works as follows: a robot flies a large kite on a cable. The kite powers a dynamo on the ground until the cable is fully unwound. At that point the robot steers the kite out of the wind and the dynamo becomes a motor that reels the kite back in. The technique makes it possible to use the strong winds at up to several hundred metres altitude.
One of the dream customers is the Dutch Ministry of Defence. Peschel explains: ‘In remote locations, the MoD depends on diesel as a source of energy. That costs a lot of money, and they want to shift to more sustainable energy. This makes Kitepower an interesting and simple alternative. But you can obviously come up with many more applications. More and more remote villages in China are being electrified, and this can naturally be ideal for that as well. Or for music festivals, or more seriously – in disaster areas. Anywhere people currently use diesel.’
Together with V.O., he manages all patent-related matters. ‘We have invested a lot, and in the future we also want to market our invention and profit from it. I should point out that we also share a lot of the results of our research. This technology is still in its infancy and the market potential is huge; it will develop further especially through sharing research and working collaboratively.’