Rod Read, an engineer and stay-at-home dad, lives on the remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland. For the past seven years, he’s been designing a kite that he thinks could revolutionize wind power.
Read’s rotary kite turbine prototype is small, but he imagines a big future for kites–he’s created computer models of large arrays of connected kites, all generating power in unison. A network of kites, Read says, is safer and stronger than a single kite–if one kite fails, it’s held aloft by the others. He’s released several of his open-source designs on his website for anyone to use. More testing is needed to show the design can be scaled up, and Read is raising funds to help a PhD student at the nearby Strathclyde University test the design.
There are other kite-driven turbine designs in various stages of development around the world, including Google-funded Makani Power in California. Scottish Kite Power Systems is building the UK’s first kite-driven power station this year.
Whether kite power takes off on the utility level is yet to be seen. For Read, his next goal is to build a kite large enough to charge his electric car.