Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Kites to Provide Both Mobility and Power as Shipping Line Takes on Old Technology

Once Again Wind Power Can Rule the Waves (and More Free Energy News)
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – Last week it was a return to rotor sails as a method of reducing emissions from commercial shipping, this week it's kites, a subject about which we have previously reviewed past, unfortunately failed, attempts. Now container and tanker operator K Line has confirmed it will install the Seawing automated kite system to one of its bulk carriers to assist in the propulsion of the vessel when conditions are right.

The object of the exercise is to evaluate the Seawing technology, developed by Airseas, a subsidiary of Airbus SE, for two years in the hope that any improvement in the ship’s environmental performance is worthwhile. The manufacturer’s claim that potentially a reduction in CO2 will be in the order of 20%, about 5,200 tonnes per annum.

Marketed as ‘the kite that tows ships’ Seawing is mounted on the bow of the vessel and is unfolded by what is described as a simple operation from the bridge under certain conditions of wind power and direction. The system will link to K Line’s own ship operation and performance management system ‘Kawasaki Integrated Maritime Solutions’ to provide the company and Airseas with accurate data.

Kites must be in vogue as a report from Imperial College London this week says their use to capture wind energy and turn it into cost-effective ‘green’ electricity could be coming within reach. In research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and linked to a wider Innovate UK-funded project, a team at Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics has put a kite-energy device through its paces using a wind tunnel that is part of the EPSRC-supported National Wind Tunnel Facility (NWTF).

The data produced has helped Glasgow-based Kite Power Systems (KPS), a company aiming to bring kite energy to market by 2025, to optimise its device to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. This is enabling the company to take the concept to the next stage of development and a video explaining the process, and how the system relates to offshore energy, is viewable here.

Kite energy involves tethering a specially designed kite to a spool via cables. As the kite moves around in the wind, in a figure-of-eight pattern, the pull on the cable turns the spool and the motion of the drum is harnessed to generate electricity. Kites of this kind could be deployed in groups, with offshore locations one potential possibility where installations could produce significant amounts of competitively priced power.

The wind tunnel tests at Imperial explored the ‘load’ that a model of the kite-energy device measuring three metres x one metre was subjected to, as well as the effect of ‘drag’ as it manoeuvred. As kite-energy devices would be designed to move in the air at speeds of up to 80 metres per second, these forces could be very substantial, so the design needs to combine agility with robustness. Professor Mike Graham, who led the Imperial team, commented:

“We treated both a fabric model of the kite-energy device and a rigid aerofoil model of the cross-sections and the data gathered has helped KPS assess this design. Our work has also helped inform the choice of materials that will be used in the devices. The consortium involved in the Innovate UK project included a lot of industrial backing, but Imperial has been the only academic partner involved. Our work has therefore played a distinctive role in enabling the concept to move forward.”

The wind tunnel at Imperial that was used in the test has an 18 metre long high-speed working section and a large low-speed section of just under six metres wide and three metres high. It is one of three wind tunnels at the college included in the NWTF which operates in total 17 wind tunnels located across seven UK universities. David Ainsworth, KPS CEO, observed:

“The work conducted in the wind tunnel by Imperial College London as part of the Innovate UK grant was invaluable to our increased understanding of the behaviour of our components. The learning has substantially steered our technology direction and ensures that we are on course for commercialisation by 2025.”

Whilst on the subject of cheaper electricity, today’s big story in the international energy news was of the island of Porto Santo which lies in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira. For over a year Renault and Empresa de Electricitade da Madeira (EEM) have been trialling the use of electrically powered vehicles, second-life battery storage units, smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging to supplement the island’s own power sources.

Mobility House, an energy technology service provider uses aggregation software to control unidirectional and bidirectional Renault vehicles which can pass spare energy back into the grid during peak hours of use. The claim that the island may be the first energy independent island by eliminating the use of fossil fuels altogether might be a little exaggerated, but the aspiration is certainly an honourable one.

Photo: Kite Power Systems field test a model.