Kites to solve the energy problem

Summary:Airborne turbines would harvest the energy and their tethers would deliver electricity to the ground.

In theory a network of kites six miles above the Earth could power the planet.

Scientists from Cal State Chico and Stanford conducted a global survey of high-altitude wind power, based on 28 years of weather reports, and found present global energy demand could be satisfied with kite-turbines over just one percent of the globe.

Airborne turbines would harvest the energy and their tethers would deliver electricity to the ground. They might look like this one, harvested from the Web site of Sky WindPower.

One of the more interesting aspects of the survey is that this energy is abundant in many places where it is most needed. New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai all have reliable jet stream winds.

There are problems, of course. These winds are not 100% reliable. You need to store excess energy so it can be used when needed. I have suggested hydrogen as one way to do this.

The full article is in the new journal Energies, which also has the following interesting bits of research this month:

  • A study on treating organic waste to create biogas and residue, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The gas can be used for energy, the residue for fertilizer.
  • A new modeling tool for developing efficient fuel cells, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The model fits known experimental results so it can be applied in engineering cells.
  • A new way to produce fuel hydrogen from corn syrup waste, from the University of Western Ontario. In the past we have thought of corn syrup being used to produce ethanol, now it can produce hydrogen as well.

Anyone who tells you it's impossible to replace hydrocarbons, oil, gas and coal, is selling something.

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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