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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

CoolFix for a Hot Planet

Air Date: Week of

Flying high on wind power. Alexandra Gutierrez reports.


GUTIERREZ: Think renewable energy, and kite surfing probably doesn't come to mind. Unless, of course, you’re Allister Furey.

Furey is a robot scientist at the University of Sussex in England, who spends his weekends kite surfing. Now, he’s combining work and play to make wind energy production more efficient.


Wind energy has long been lauded as one of the cleanest forms of energy available, but it accounts for less than two percent of all energy produced. That’s because it isn’t practical in places that aren’t particularly breezy.

While flying kites, Furey noticed higher altitude winds tended to be much faster than the winds near the ground. If high-flying kites could harness these strong winds, energy would be available nearly everywhere.

Furey began collaborating with the KiteGen project. Their goal is to create a system that produces energy through kites attached to turbines. KiteGen’s biggest challenge is finding a way to keep the kites in the air while maximizing the amount of power produced. The scientists use a process called ‘neural networking’ where the kites are controlled by computers and fly without human input.

The first batch of these freethinking kites crashed within a split second. But the KiteGen scientists kept the traits of the smartest kites, allowing them to fly longer. KiteGen hopes to make this technology commercially available. For now though, some of these super kites are already soaring through the sky, extracting energy previously inaccessible to normal wind turbines. That’s this week’s Cool Fix for a Hot Planet. I’m Alexandra Gutierrez.

CURWOOD: If you or someone you know has a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet, please let us know. And if we use your idea on the air, you’ll get a Living on Earth tire gauge. Call our listener line at 800-218-9988, that's 800-218-99-88. Or email coolfix—that’s all one word—at loe.org. That's coolfix at l-o-e dot org.



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