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Posted on July 23, 2013

Energy harvesting from tethered undersea kites

Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) 2017-2027
Three Massachusetts research facilities will receive funding to help find out if undersea ''kites'' can reliably produce renewable energy. The National Science Foundation is awarding nearly $2 million towards research projects and Worcester Polytechnic Institute will receive more than $300,000 for a project to study tethered, undersea kite (TUSK) systems; a new hydrokinetic energy technology.
 
In a TUSK system, a tethered, rigid-winged hydro-kite is submerged in an ocean or tidal current and controlled to move in high-speed cross-current motions. A turbine is mounted on the hydro-kite in one TUSK concept, or the flexible unwinding tether transmits generated hydrodynamic forces to a power generation system in another concept. TUSK systems have potential advantages over conventional marine turbines, mainly that TUSK systems will be able to generate cost-effective energy with smaller, less costly systems, and at more locations within ocean currents and tidal flows where current speeds are too low to make marine turbines feasible.
 
The main benefits are:
  • 1. The hydro-kite can move in high-speed cross-current motions (much like a kite in air) over large swept areas to greatly increase power output,
  • 2. TUSK systems eliminate the need for large diameter turbines and costly support structures
  • 3. TUSK systems are easier to maintain, and
  • 4. TUSK systems are scalable.
 
The main goal of the proposed work is to identify and select an optimum TUSK concept and then demonstrate feasibility through modelling, numerical simulation and sub-scale experimental work. A fundamental knowledge base for design of stable, scalable, durable, and cost-efficient tethered undersea kites will be obtained. This knowledge will serve as the basis for further scaling and development of the technology to full-scale systems.
 
High Power Energy Harvesting:
This project will lay the foundation for understanding how such systems behave by integrating analytical models and robust control solutions, numerical simulations with sufficient accuracy suitable for system design, and physical experiments on TUSK system components in partnership with a local hydrodynamics research lab. The proposed numerical simulations will constitute the first CFD work on tethered undersea kite systems, fully accounting for hydrodynamic forces, support platform motions, and the flexibility and influence of the tethers.
 
This research project will set the stage for the further study and eventual full-scale deployment of this new energy conversion technology by the systems and control, CFD, and hydrokinetic energy communities as well as commercial enterprises, through dissemination of the results at conferences and in archival journals.
 
Top image: Medtogo