The Kitekraft Master Plan

Posted on
July 3, 2019

We want to contribute to transforming the global energy supply to 100 % renewables, to prevent our planet’s climate from tipping and keep our planet a livable place. Kitekraft systems can generate electricity, which is both low-cost and ultra-clean. In fact, we calculate that Kitekraft systems will have the lowest life-cycle CO2-footprint per kilowatt-hour compared to any other energy technology. This is due to the very low amount of building material required, which is also the reason why Kitekraft systems will be the cheapest type of power plants at many places. Our goal is to deploy large amounts of Kitekraft capacities to maximize our positive impact. In this blog post, we present our plan to achieve this goal.

Our planet earth is at stake. This is the only place in the entire universe that we know of, where we humans can survive. We must handle it with much more care than we have been so far, which makes a rapid change to 100 % renewable energy inevitable.

In an ideal world, we would immediately design and build a Kitekraft system with several tens of meters wingspan and in a megawatt-range nominal power, similar to today’s conventional wind turbines. Only such large-scale systems generate substantial amounts of energy und thus do have enough impact. Moreover, large Kitekraft systems have a much higher efficiency than smaller ones due to nonlinear aerodynamic effects and because many component prices hardly scale with the size of the kite (e.g. airspeed sensors). This is why large Kitekraft systems are much cheaper to build and operate in relative numbers, and thus have a much lower levelized cost of electricity than small Kitekraft systems. Yet another argument for larger Kitekraft systems is that the generated energy per square kilometer land area is much higher than for smaller ones.

Looking at those many advantages of large Kitekraft systems, one could think that there is no point to bother developing small systems first. However, developing large systems first has a huge disadvantage: The development of large systems is much more costly in absolute Euro amounts. This is important because the development and its associated risks have to be funded. Moreover, it is impossible to get the design of such a new power plant concept right at the first try. Today’s computer and simulation capabilities are a great help for engineering, but a simulation model is by definition only an approximation of reality. The greatest learnings still come from real world tests. There are numerous historic examples, in which large amounts of money were burned. The Growian is one such example. Most successful technologies have been demonstrated and iterated/improved in small scale first, and were then scaled up in steps. For example, the first airplanes flown were small ones, and large airplanes like the Airbus A380 were developed after several intermediate steps. Another strong argument is trust of customers: Even if we are able to build a 10 MW Kitekraft system right away which flies perfectly and generates power, it will be hard to sell it, because the proof that it can generate electricity for many years reliably, which is required to make economic sense, is still due. For such a large-scale system, millions of Euros are at stake. Only with a track record, customers could be convinced.

These are the reasons, why we start with the smallest-scale Kitekraft system which is technically and economically feasible. With our technology, this can already be realized with a nominal power in the low kilowatt range. Moreover, we will offer to reduce risks for our first customers, e.g. by providing generous warranties, or by not actually selling the Kitekraft systems but by selling only the generated electricity. The Kitekraft systems thereby will feed-in “behind the meter”, i.e. so-called self-consumption, or are used in island grids. In those markets the electricity from a Kitekraft system will be lower cost than any other alternative at many places right away. We will roll out those systems, thereby improve/iterate the technology, obtain a technical and economical validation, accumulate thousands of flight hours, and in parallel scale up the kite size in manageable steps. For example, we will implement only necessary and minimal changes in a scaling step, but doing that as fast as we can. A fast progress is enabled by modern computer- and simulation technologies, modern electronics and sensors, and new power electronic components. Within the next few years, we plan to reach megawatt-scale Kitekraft systems, which are highly efficient and reliable.

As a summery, the Kitekraft Master Plan unfolds to:

  1. Develop a small-scale demonstrator. This is our 5 kW kite, shown in a previous post. Its main purpose is to act as development and test platform, but it may be turned into a product.
  2. Develop a small-scale product. This is the 4 m wingspan kite shown on our website which has 10 kW to 20 kW nominal power, depending on the configuration. Establish a (small) series production, deploy them at (pilot) customers, possibly operate them with low economic risk for the (pilot) customers (e.g. just charge for generated electricity), and use the collected flight data to improve/iterate the system design and control software.
  3. Develop a meaningfully larger product (e.g. double the wingspan to 8 m resulting in about 100 kW power — note the nonlinear wingspan-power relationship) and do all of the steps from point 2. For these systems, we might already have enough flight hours and experience accumulated, such that most customers buy Kitekraft systems right away and we do not need to operate them ourselves (selling the generated electricity) anymore. A customer’s benefit is the higher economic gain (although higher economic risk), and our advantage is a better cash flow and better focus on the Kitekraft system development.
  4. Develop a meaningfully larger product (e.g. double the wingspan again, which would be a 16 m kite with about 500 kW power) and do all of the steps from point 3. At this point, we will already have decades of accumulated flight hours.
  5. Continue the scaling process. Ultimately, roll out large amounts of megawatt-scale Kitekraft systems for onshore and offshore sites, and thus contribute massively to the energy shift towards 100 % renewables with very low-cost and very low-CO2-footprint power plants.

Or in short: 1. prove technology (and ourselves), 2. get out and prove market adoption, 3. scale up and series manufacture, 4. towards megawatts, 5. planet saved and sustainable business with numerous jobs established.

Posted on
July 3, 2019

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