Ideal locations for wind turbines are the coastal regions, where constant winds result in best-possible operating conditions. But wind turbines should have a low visual impact. Automatically operated kites offer new opportunities to complement conventional wind parks.

New technology for even more wind energy

The space for wind turbines is limited, both on land and near the coast. At the same time, offshore installation is only possible where the sea is not deeper than 40 m. One solution would be floating plants that can be anchored in deeper waters.

Another aspect is that wind is much weaker near the coast than further out at sea. For this reason, the ideal solution would be a technology that is able to utilize winds at high altitudes. They are not only stronger than wind experienced near the coast. They also blow much more regularly.

Circling kites instead of rotor blades

The Stephan Wrage was born in Hamburg and is a passionate sailor and kite surfer. That may explain his affinity to the sea and his excitement for stunt kites. In 2001, the graduate industrial engineer founded the company SkySails. With a team of now 50 employees, the company is busy with the use of wind energy for energy production and has developed its innovative technology to market maturity.

Stephan Wrage was honored in 2004 by the British JCI with the Outstanding Young Person Award for the development of the functional principle behind SkySails. In 2008, WWF and Capital magazine awarded him the title of “Eco-Manager of the Year”. The SkySails Power project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Project partners are EnBW, EWE and the Institute of Propulsion Systems and Power Electronics.

In the metropolitan region of Hamburg with its proximity to the maritime world and its numerous projects in the field of renewable energies, the company finds optimal conditions for its further development. In addition to its headquarters in Hamburg, SkySails has set up a production and testing center in Wismar within the Hamburg metropolitan region.

SkySails Power can be considered the next generation of wind power. The project started in 2011 and will soon be available on the market. The core of the system is a fully automatically controlled towing kite, which can ascend up to heights of 800 m. Its starting point is a floating carrier platform on which the electric generator and an automatic start and landing system are located. In contrast to conventional wind turbines, this platform can also be used at sea depths of up to 700 m.

For power generation by the kite a pull rope is unwound from a winch, which is connected to a power generator. When the maximum rope length has been reached, the return phase begins. The generator now works as a motor and rolls the rope back until the rope length is short enough for the next power generation phase. Only a fraction of the energy generated during the power phase is consumed for this procedure.

By combining multiple SkySails systems, power generation and kite retrieval can be optimally coordinated to achieve continuous power generation. Due to the steadily wafting winds, a significantly higher energy yield is achieved than with conventional wind turbines, which operate only at low altitudes and near the coast.

Strong high altitude winds for continuous energy

High altitude winds are not only much stronger than winds at lower altitudes. They are also characterized by a uniformity, as it is not given near the ground in the countryside or on the coast. SkySails wind turbines use this free energy provided by nature for a much more reliable and economical generation of electrical energy. The size of the kites used can be specifically adapted to the local conditions and existing energy requirements.

In addition to the facilities for offshore operation, there is also a model that is housed in a container and can be installed on land. This solution is suitable, for example, for supplying energy to remote areas. In addition, it allows the self-sufficient energy supply of islands, which are no longer dependent on mostly oil-powered generators whose fuel needs to be delivered at high cost.

In addition, there is a SkySails model for seagoing vessels, which can be used for cost-effective generation of on-board power supply.

As of September 2019

SkySails Power
in Numbers

cost savings compared to conventional wind power plants
less material costs for plant and platform
MW/h power per unit

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