“Wind turbines on the Earth’s surface suffer from the very stubborn problem of intermittent wind supply,” said Udaya Gunturu, a researcher with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, who is one of several researchers investigating the potential of using kite wind turbines to provide clean energy in the Middle East.
Tethered wind turbines that harness wind energy from higher altitudes like a kite are not a new idea, but researchers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have begun investigating the potential such technology has to provide clean electricity in the Middle East. Specifically, the researchers have identified the most favorable areas for high-altitude wind-energy systems in the region, found over parts of Saudi Arabia and Oman.
In the study, High-altitude wind resources in the Middle East, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the authors conclude that “high-altitude wind resources are abundant, persistent, and readily available and may provide alternative energy resources in this fossil-fuel-dependent region.” The researchers used wind field data sourced from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications Version 2 (MERRA-2), a project from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to determine high-altitude areas which could provide consistent wind power.
“Optimal altitudes for the turbines vary by region and with time of year and time of day,” said Andrew Yip, first author of the research paper. “In general, the abundance of the airborne wind-energy resources increases with altitude.”
The natural variability found in higher altitudes can also be matched by kites that are able to vary their own altitude to make the most of whichever altitude level is providing the most beneficial wind speeds. Current kite technology could allow wind energy to be harvested from heights between 2 to 3 kilometers — but as technology evolves, tethered wind turbines could begin to reach into higher altitudes with even stronger and more consistent winds.
“Our work may help Saudi Arabian wind-energy technology to leapfrog into the future and fulfill the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan on the development of renewable energy resources,” said Georgiy Stenchikov, who led the research.