Energy giants throw financial weight behind Britain's kite energy aspirations

Three major energy firms, including E.ON and Shell, have secured a £5m investment into an innovative British company that aims to deploy the country's first high-altitude wind facility.

KPS claims that its kite power technology can transform the global offshore wind market due to the cheap manufacturing costs, which can reduce capex by as much as 50%

KPS claims that its kite power technology can transform the global offshore wind market due to the cheap manufacturing costs, which can reduce capex by as much as 50%

British-based Kite Power Systems (KPS), which is hoping to commercialise the use of large kites to develop wind energy at higher altitudes than current wind farms and turbines, received the £5m backing from E.ON, Shell Technology Ventures (STV) and French oilfield service company Schlumberger on Tuesday (13 December).

The investment will support KPS’s plans to deploy a 500KW onshore power system in South West Scotland in 2017, which will lead to a planned onshore demonstration array of multiple 500KW systems by 2020. Beyond this timeframe, KPS will develop a 3MW onshore kite system at the South West Scotland base before developing similar-sized offshore systems.

KPS’s chief financial officer Paul Jones said: "The new investment from three major international businesses is an endorsement of the R&D work that the KPS team has carried out and demonstrates support for our technology and our business. The backing of these companies will accelerate KPS's commercial development plans towards deploying lower cost, deep-water offshore wind energy on a global scale."

KPS claims that its kite power technology can transform the global offshore wind market due to the cheap manufacturing costs, which can reduce capex by as much as 50%, and smaller amount of construction materials required. The lower costs mean that kite power generation can run without the aid of government subsidies – which has stifled onshore deployment in the past.

The KPS power system uses two kites that are flown at heights of around 450m and are tethered to a winch system that generates electricity as the tether coils out. Reaching flight speeds of up to 100mph, the tension in the tether line causes rapid uncoiling from a base drum, which turns the generator producing energy.

Since its establishment in 2011, KPS has invested more than £3m in technology development and has been supported by Shell since 2012 through the GameChanger programme, which is designed to aid start-ups.

While E.ON has invested into KPS due to its renewed focus on renewable energy and energy grids, Schlumberger chose to invest due to the technologies potential to be deployed across offshore oil platforms and remote onshore drilling operations. The £5m investment will support the technical and commercial development of the kite system.

Winds of change

Innovations in the wind sector have been a common inclusion in edie’s ‘green innovations of the week’ round-ups. While a lot of the featured projects are still in the design phase, it does highlight the disruptive influence that innovation can place into sectors.

In fact, a recent report from sustainable innovation engine KIC InnoEnergy has revealed that innovation improvements surrounding the design, maintenance, construction and operations of European offshore windfarms could cut associated energy costs by a third in the next 15 years.

The findings from KIC InnoEnergy are supported by research from IRENA, which suggests that technological innovations for offshore wind energy generation hold the potential to grow the sector from 13GW of capacity in 2015 to more than 100GW in 2030.

Matt Mace


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Green innovation | offshore | offshore wind | Scotland | technology | renewables

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Technology & innovation
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