I have been fascinated with the topic of kite powered electrical generation for quite a while.
The first device that I saw that seemed plausible was the Magenn Power Air Rotator System. The Magenn system is proceeding into the development phase now and has some real promise. The Magenn kite, employing the Magnus effect for lift, has come a long way from the first prototype demonstrated to kiters at the Canal Days Kite Festival in Port Colborne, ON in 2006.
However, for high output power production by a kite, the Makani Power Inc.’s concept looks like it will be a real winner. The Makani kite is currently working in prototype form and is attracting a lot of attention from investors and electrical engineers alike. Flying in an automatically controlled elliptical pattern, much like those performed by dual line sport kites, the Makani power generating kite can seemingly stay aloft for very long periods of time where there are constant prevailing or regularly defined winds, such as along coast lines.
The Makani web site does not provide visual details of the power generating kite system or the kite itself. It has only been revealed in special technology news reports that provide some tantalizing details about the work of Saul Griffiths and his team.
Recently Exchange Magazine, a noted magazine for business, economic and development entrepreneurs did a major piece on the Makani kite-powered generation system.
Saul Griffith, the leader of the Makani corporation and the Makani kite concept, is one of today's most innovative thinkers. He believes in open source ideas, the power of collaboration and rolling up your sleeves to attempt to create solutions to issues that will benefit society. His ideas have led to lower costs in production of a number of everday items (e.g. prescription eye glasses). He is the founder of the web site Instructables.com which shows how to make an incredible array of interesting and innovative products. Saul is also a regular columnist at Make Magazine.
Saul's Makani kite power generation project was featured at the recent TED conference.TED: Technology/Entertainment/Design is a high profile organization that showcases promising new ideas and the innovators that are guiding their development.
Saul’s presentation to the conference is of particular interest to kiters since he touches on the history of kites (person lifting, traction, development of powered flight) as he leads up to the demonstration footage of the Makani kite in the sky actually flying and generating power. This is very worthwhile viewing for kiters. The link to the video (about 5 minutes of Saul on kites and the Makani system) and a brief backgrounder on Mr. Griffiths is found in two places:
- Exchange Magazine's report and video on the Makani Kite System;
- TED conference report and video on the Makani Kite System.
This is a good high tech kite story and a must-see video for kiters!