Kinetic Intelligent Transportable Energy (KITE)

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Kinetic Intelligent Transportable Energy (KITE) is an innovative technology for generating electricity in remote and underdeveloped regions of the world. As a deployable, small-scale system, KITE would bring relief to communities stricken by natural disaster or otherwise devoid of the infrastructure necessary to support centralized electrical generation. A single KITE could power a refrigerator, a pump, or the lights in a school. It could keep communications running and medical facilities open where they are needed most, when they are needed most.

KITE’s system generates electricity from the tension in the tethers of a kite actuated by its generators, minimizing energy lost to kite control and eliminating the need for a human operator. The actuator tenses the power-lines to self-launch the kite when the anemometer senses a ground wind speed exceeding the cut-in wind speed. The kite flies in a continuous cycle, pulled outward in a figure-eight by the wind and spooled inward by the reverse action of its generators (Fig. 2). The kite’s outward movement is actuated by asymmetric loading of generators geared to the spools for its two power-lines (Fig. 3). The outward motion generates two orders of magnitude more force than is expended during retrieval, yielding a large net energy production. Additional energy is conserved by actuating in-flight control with generators, rather than the motors typical of other airborne systems. Before the kite is retrieved by symmetrically re-spooling the three kite lines, the break-line motor pulls the break-line line to collapse the kite and aerodynamically depower it (fig. 3).

By dispensing of the hefty mast of conventional wind turbines, KITE’s design minimizes construction and transportation costs and renders the product uniquely mobile. The machine can be transported in small spaces like the bed of a pickup truck and installed in open fields, on mountainsides, or atop an existing building without the need for roof reinforcement, making KITE a viable energy solution for communities in which the construction and maintenance of mast-mounted wind technologies is prohibitively expensive such as disaster relief regions, areas with poor roads, or offshore sites. KITE’s airborne design also eliminates the height restrictions associated with a fixed mast, enabling KITE to access the stronger, more consistent winds prevalent at higher altitudes.

KITE is assembled from off-the-shelf parts plus a few pieces of custom-cut sheet metal. Parts and labor for the prototype are approximately $1500. Once deployed, KITE delivers higher power density per dollar than solar solutions, lower lifetime costs than diesel solutions, and lower deployment costs than traditional wind solutions. Individual KITE units will be financed with a lifetime stream of operational savings, with a payback period of 1-5 years depending on local energy costs. KITE is, therefore, an economical solution for sites where existing generation technology falls short. This product occupies a niche of its own in the rapidly expanding distributed energy market. After its establishment in this market, a larger scale model of KITE could enter the industrial energy market, where it will face greater barriers to entry but greater potential for growth.

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  • ABOUT THE ENTRANT

  • Name:
    Max Kaulbach
  • Type of entry:
    team
    Team members:
    Max Kaulbach BSE Princeton '13, Joe Stilin MSE University of Texas at Austin '14, BSE Princeton '12
  • Profession:
    Engineer/Designer
  • Max is inspired by:
    My personal inspiration for this project was my desire to participate in the rapid response disaster relief for the survivors of Haiti’s terrible 7.3 magnitude earthquake which struck in January 2010. I was the design engineer member of the Princeton student multi-disciplinary team that produced “Power in the Box”, an EPA award winning solution for delivering small scale wind power in shipping containers to Haiti. I realized that the “Power in the Box” concept was valuable for locations where a shipping container could be transported to, but there are many remote locations in dire need of power that a shipping container cannot practically be delivered to. My conviction that there was still an important unsolved problem that engineering ingenuity could remedy inspired me to start designing KITE – the first version of which I presented for my BSE thesis at Princeton University. Easily transportable and deployable wind power will be a valuable tool in disaster relief and remote power generation. KITE strives to be the most efficient (by average electric power to total mass) solution to the yet-unrealized reusable and deployable wind power generation system with the rigid volume constraint of fitting in the back of an average size pickup truck. The pick-up truck size constraint is chosen because of its ready availability throughout the world for transportation to remote sites where this design solution will be most valuable.
  • Software used for this entry:
    Matlab, Solidworks, Bluebeam
  • Patent status:
    pending