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Energy / Kite turbine developer looks to take testing to new heights at Scatsta

PLANS are afoot to using a part of Scatsta Airport for testing kite turbines to produce electricity.

Behind the idea is Rod Read, who works in developing “flying wind turbines”.

He recently moved to Shetland from the Isle of Lewis and he is looking to scale up the turbines he is testing.

Previously Read has prototyped devices which produce 1.5kW of power, but he is looking to work with 10kW models.

He says that kite turbines makes “low cost energy using less carbon”.

They effectively see a portable system involving a kite and hoops which turn a ground based turbine.

Read is now going through the planning stages to take his project to the next level at Scatsta Airport, which closed to flights in 2019.

So far he has submitted a screening request as to whether an environmental impact assessment may be needed, and a full planning application could be sent in soon.

Scatsta Airport has already been used by a German rocket company to test engines in conjunction with Shetland Space Centre.

“The project is all about automation of the devices we’ve been prototyping,” Read said.

“We’ll be using a networked kite rotor stack of three rotors, each rotor with five kite-blades. So we’ll be stepping up in stages. With 330W as we add each rotor to the stack.”

Read added that the kite turbines have all been mechanically autonomous so far.

This means that once launched, the 2kg systems flew and operated all on their own because of their form.

“This is very odd in the field of airborne wind energy – as every other system is heavily reliant on flight control systems,” he added.

“We’re a month into a six-month scoping phase which will be testing automation of launch and land systems.

“The automation were planning will improve their safety by removing the need for a human to operate the lines as the systems grow.”

Read, who is keen to test the boundaries of the models in strong wind speeds, said that once the initial work is done, “we should have funding in place to perform the phase two prototyping”.

“That’s roughly a 12 month project. After that we’ll be in a good position to start production or go even larger.

“The whole idea with kite power is about making lightweight and scalable systems which can fly in stronger winds at higher altitudes.

“Our networked kite turbine systems have a lot of scope to scale in deployed size. This is based on the fact that they combine the work of multiple lightweight kites in networks.

“As opposed to designing ever larger heavier kites which end up needing a hurricane to get airborne.”

He also described the mechanisms behind kite turbines as “bizarrely brand new” – with the system an emerging technology.