High-altitude wind energy from kites! – Saul Griffith

High-altitude wind energy from kites! – Saul Griffith


if you’re at all like me this is what you do with this sunny summer weekends in San Francisco you build experimental kite powered hydrofoils capable of more than 30 knots and you realize that there is incredible power in the wind and they can do amazing things and one day a vessel not unlike this will probably break the world speed record but cards aren’t just toys like this kites I’m gonna give you a brief history and tell you about the magnificent future of every child’s favorite plaything so kites are more than a thousand years old and the Chinese use them for military applications and even for lifting men so they knew at that stage they could carry large weights I’m not sure why there is a hole in this particular man in 1827 a fellow called George Pocock actually pioneered the use of kites for towing buggies in races against horse carriages across the English countryside then of course at the dawn of aviation all of the great inventors at the time like Hargreaves like Langley even Alexander Graham Bell inventor of the telephone was flying this kite we’re doing so in the pursuit of aviation then these two fellows came along and they were flying kites to develop the control systems that would ultimately enable powered human flight so this is of course oval and Wilbur Wright and the Wright Flyer and their experiments with kites led to this momentous occasion where we powered up and took off for the first ever 12 second human flight and that was fantastic for the future of commercial aviation but unfortunately it relegated kites once again to be considered children’s toys that was until the 1970s where we had the last energy crisis and a fabulous man called miles Lloyd who lives on the outskirts of San Francisco wrote this seminal paper that was completely ignored in the Journal of energy about how to use basically an airplane on a piece of string to generate enormous amounts of electricity the real key observation he made is that a free flying wing can sweep through more sky and generate more power in a unit of time than a fixed-wing turbine so turbines grew and they can now span up to 300 feet at the hub height but they can’t really go a lot higher and more height is where the more wind is and more power as much as twice as much so cut to now we have still have an energy crisis and now we have a climate crisis as well you know so humans generate about 12 trillion watts or 12 terra watts from fossil fuels and Al Gore has spoken to why we need to hit one of these targets and in reality what that means is into the next 30 to 40 years we have to make 10 trillion watts or more of new clean energy somehow wind is the second largest renewable resource after a solar 3600 terawatts more than enough to supply humanity 200 times over the majority of it is in the higher altitudes above 300 feet where we don’t have a technology as yet to get there so this is the dawn of the new age of kites this is our test site on Maui flying across the sky I’m now going to show you the first autonomous generation of power by every child’s favorite plaything as you can tell you need to be a robot to fly this thing for thousands of hours makes you a little nauseous and here we’re actually generating about 10 kilowatts so enough to power probably five united states households with a kite not much larger than this piano and the real significant thing here is we’re developing the control systems as did the Wright brothers that would enable sustained long-duration flight and it doesn’t hurt to do it in a location like this either so this is the equivalent for a kite flier of peeing in the snow that’s tracing your name in the sky and this is where we’re actually going so we’re beyond the 12 second steps and we’re working towards megawatt scale machines that fly at 2,000 feet and generate tons of clean electricity so you ask how bigger those machines well this paper plane would be maybe a that would be enough to power your cell phone your Cessna would be 230 kilowatts if you’d loan me your a Gulfstream I’ll rip its wings off and generate your mega one if you give me a 747 I’ll make six megawatts which is more than the largest wind turbines today and the Spruce Goose would be a 15 megawatt wing so that is audacious you say I agree but audacious is what has happened many times before in history this is a refrigerator factory churning out airplanes for World War two prior to World War two they were making 1,000 planes a year by 1945 they were making a hundred thousand with this Factory and a hundred thousand planes a year we could make all of America’s electricity in about ten years so really this is a story about the audacious plans of young people with these dreams there are many office I am lucky enough to work with 30 of them and I think we need to support all of the dreams of the kids out there doing these crazy things thank

13 COMMENTS

    I hope the design's for these are or become open-source. That would seem to me to be the key to countering large corporate control over energy.

    Great talk!

    And,Sky islands fuelled by resources brought up from the ''flat earth'' cultures and environments…''The brownies''as the people down below are called by the Sky city lifers…

    where can I get me one of those
    lol,
    free electricity forever.
    But seriously I would be saving money and be using clean energy. They should try to make it an option for people to buy.

    I remember when people were buying Al Gore's snake oil…until it was discovered that his "climate scientists" were faking their figures and results were fabricated.

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