The good ol’ kite is making a comeback for clean power’s sake. While Earth2Tech readers might be familiar with Makani, the high-altitude wind startup backed by Google, another group of kite enthusiasts based in North Carolina is looking to fly kites to produce power: WindLift. Founders Robert Creighton and Bart Bartlett explained to us this week that they are looking to build a kite package that costs $5,000, can produce 10 kW of power and will fly up to 300 feet in the air.
The ideal application for the initial version of their kite power package is water pumps and irrigation systems in geographies off the grid, according to the duo. The kite provides a significant amount of energy — about a kilowatt per meter for a 5- to 20-meter kite — says Bartlett, and explains the company is initially looking to replace the diesel generator market. Customers could be industrial farmers in developing nations or even rural parts of the U.S.
Launching the kite is pretty much the same process you used when you were a kid — you have to get it up manually, which can be done in about 5-10 minutes in 6-10 mph winds, says Creighton. But once the kite is in the air it will be able to fly itself; when the wind dies down it will be automatically reeled in. Eventually WindLift would like to offer a grid-connected version of its kite, but that would add at least $10,000 to the cost of the system. While Makani hasn’t revealed much about its technology, some have speculated to us that the startup is aiming more for the utility, grid-connected market.
So far WindLift has raised a seed round from a small group of investors in Wisconsin — the company started off trying to fly kites in the chilly winters in Wisconsin and later moved to just south of Kitty Hawk, in North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers developed their flying innovations. This week Creighton and Bartlett have come to Redwood City, Calif., for the Dow Jones Alternative Energy conference, and they are looking to raise a Series A of about $6 million to start production and packaging of their kite power. They’ll present at the conference on Wednesday if you’re interested in learning more.