Fossil to turbine, turbine to kite


Planete energies defines energy transition as “the shift from current energy production and consumption systems, which rely primarily on non-renewable sources such as oil, natural gas and coal, to a more efficient, lower-carbon energy mix.1” This is a lot easier said than done, especially with lots of discrepancy amongst scientists on various approaches and unforeseen problems. However, they do agree on one concept known as the energy trilemma:



The energy trilemma looks at how policies made need to balance three different aspects: security, sustainability, and affordability. The easiest way for change to be made is for innovative technological breakthroughs. These would hopefully raise energy efficiency, lower the cost, and not harm the environment, thus solving the trilemma.

One particular solution was a concept brought up many years ago but never fully took off. Saul Griffith talks in his short Ted talk about the efficiency and usefulness of kites to capture wind energy. Griffith explained how turbines are limited in how much taller they can be, however kites can go significantly higher, which is where more wind is.3


You can watch his 5 minute Ted talk here

Griffiths isn’t the only one who is advocating for kite energy. Several other companies around the world are hopping on this bandwagon:

Kitenrg, an Italian company, is working on making kites that reach up into the troposphere where there is significantly more wind, thus creating more energy. It is harnessed to the ground with two cables as well as an electric generator.5


Kite Power Systems of the UK explain the added benefits of low cost that government subsidies won’t be needed and that unlike windturbines, these can go places the turbines can’t. They have already set up a small station in Essex as well as a 500-killowatt system near Stranraer in Scotland.6

Makani, a company bought by Google, focuses on making wind energy more affordable and efficient which will ultimately eliminate fossil fuels. This kite is slightly different than the previous two examples. The kite is launched from a station on the ground and reaches heights of 800 feet with the help of rotors acting as helicopter blades. Power is generated by flying in circles higher up in the air.7


As shown above, wind kites come in a variety of shapes and sizes with several different companies from around the world trying to propel this solution everywhere. Kites could be a key concept to help Leiden transition from a city of fossil fuels to a city of renewables. This is relatively cheaper and simpler than current wind turbines. Additionally, since it is not feasible for Leiden to rely heavily on wind turbines as an option for renewable energy, this could be a key solution.

Wind kites have the potential to be the technological breakthrough that solves the energy trilemma for renewable energy.





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6 thoughts on “Fossil to turbine, turbine to kite”

  1. Thank you for sharing your idea. However, I have some questions about the kite idea regarding the wind. From the information I got I believe the kite is not fixed, is this true? Ofcourse, wind directions are changing all the time. This has influence on both the angle and the position of the kite. Taking in consideration that you will go up to 300 m, under lets say a 45 degrees angle your horizontal distance is roughly 185m. However, if the wind directions changes, the kite will move 370m in the other direction. This is quite a significant distance. Under lower angles than 45 degrees, this distance will even increase. How far from each other do you think you have to place the kites? And what is the influence of the angle in harvesting wind energy?


    1. I’m confused by what you mean as fixed? The kite is attached to something at the bottom but is able to move freely up in the air, which the companies say would be a plus because it will be able to capture the wind regardless. I kind of get what you’re saying with the numbers and angles and perhaps that’s the reason this product hasn’t really taken off because I was actually wondering why this had stayed a niche. Perhaps if they could be prevented from taking that much space it would be better and solution could be more viable. Good thought!


      1. You understood correctly what I meant with the word fixed. Indeed, if it is able to move freely in the air. Yes, that could be! Furthermore, I was wondering what happens with ‘ superstorms ‘. As climate is changing, we as the Netherlands can expect more and more of these storms. Will the kites be able to ‘survive’ this, or will they simply have to be taken to the ground?


  2. Hmm I have no idea. You definitely have great questions. I would assume they would have to be taken down, but that seemed relatively simple (for one kite, but it would definitely making scaling the project much more difficult) This website with one of the projects has a video and that was one of the tests they had to do was if it was able to be brought down or not


  3. Great concept which indeed seems to be another feasable way of generating renewable energy in a city! Also because it won’t be an obstruction to other forms of renewable energy such as solar panels. Looking at the pictures only wonder whether birds will not get confused or experience any hinder of the kites in the air?


    1. I think anytime there is something in the air, there is the potential for birds to have trouble with it but I don’t know if the kite is any better or worse than wind turbines, planes, etc. It would be a cool study though to compare the impact of wind turbines vs these kites on the impact of birds because I know that turbines have definitely been problematic for birds!


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