An underwater kite built to harness tidal energy
It looks like a big toy, but it's a technological jewel designed to produce energy from the tides. It is a prototype kite, very different to those used for flying. Its design allows it to glide underwater at speeds up to ten times faster than the tides themselves.
The sea inlet of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, the largest in the British Isles, covers 150 square kilometers. Its tides regularly rise to an amplitude of four meters at speeds averaging 1,4 meters per second.
For these natural reasons, researchers studying how to produce energy from tides chose this location to test the first submarine glider of its kind.
Heije Westberg, the chief technical officer at Minesto, explains:
The kite is heavily equipped with sensors and communication tools.
Scientists from a European research project conduct tests to assess the best design and speeds and depths under the water in which the kite can produce energy in more efficient ways.
Neil Laughlin, Software Engineer, Minesto
Light but resilient materials and a fully hydro-dynamic design allow the kite to travel underwater in good harmony with tidal flows at varying speeds.
Tests are taking place in a protected area, teeming with seals.
Scientists are building a sonar platform to track the passage of marine animals, to better understand how they interact with the kite.
Nancy Cecilia Zambrano, Test Engineer, Minesto
The goal now is to build and install much larger kites with spans of 12 meters, each designed to produce up to 1.6 gigawatt hours of electricity per year.
Scientists are using these tests to further enhance the technology.
Midroc project manager Per Salomonsson explains:
A full-scale device will soon be installed in the waters off of Wales.