AWE prognosis

I think AWE itself has potential, and nice to see people realizing the possibility.
But I have had doubts about whether the people currently involved are capable of mastering it. From the perspective of someone who got involved in wind energy and produces real, working, somewhat economical wind energy systems, that run for years between repairs, and make useful power, what I’ve seen did not look very promising. For example, I’m sometimes castigated for misspelling Loyd and not bothering to read his “seminal paper”, “Crosswind Kite Power”. How do you explain to people that real wind energy people already know what would be contained in such a paper. Our reaction is that one more know-nothing outsider has figured out that wind energy involves moving working surfaces crosswind. To us, if you have to “say” “crosswind”, you’re a know-nothing newbie. “Crosswind” goes without saying. It’s like saying “left-to-right reading” or “horizontal ground travel”, or how about “crossing the road when there is no traffic”? Our reaction is “Gee, ya think???”
I mean, for anyone in wind energy who has flown a kite, it’s obvious that “crosswind kite power” would be an amazing thing if anyone could figure out a good way to accomplish it, and of course that angles, swept area, etc. would all play a role, as they always do in wind energy.
At the first “High Altitude WIndpower Conference” in Oroville/Chico, California in 2009, I was amazed at the level of ignorance I found. There was a single medium-sized wind turbine in the distance, yet I never heard anyone mention it at this conference. It might as well have been a fire-hydrant. Real wind people would have been placing bets as to the brand, model, size, output, etc. and someone would have driven over to find out what it was. But not this crowd. They “knew everything” while knowing nothing. One nutty, unkempt, ex-aerospace guy kept insisting that the only AWE method worth considering was his idea of two mutually-tethered inter-reeling glider aircraft up in the jet stream, beaming the resulting electricity by microwave down to base stations. You couldn’t even get in word edgewise to ask him to show that microwave power transmission was realistic in the first place, let alone safe or ecomonical. Only about 50 gaping holes in his story, yet several people in attendance were literally worshipping this guy. I felt like I had walked into a counseling session at mental hospital. The whole time he was yammering and stammering so loudly and insistently, interrupting others who tried to speak, that I wondered how anyone could be so rude when other people had their own thoughts to share. At some point he tried to pin down the one weather professor helping to officiate the event, knowing she was from Italy, put her “on the spot” to get her to publicly agree that “Jesus” was going to solve AWE. Meanwhile, for two days, the Sky Serpent spun right outside the window in light winds. Maybe if the winds had been stronger, it would have gotten more attention from the attendees. At least the newspapers published pictures of it.
Anyway, I think AWE has great promise. I can think of so many simple methods and designs which I see nobody contemplating, nobody trying. “Laddermill” is a perfect example. “Wubbo” stumbled across the design and it got a catchy name, “laddermill”. Now ordinarily it’s easy to say “I already thought of that as a kid”, but in this case I had taken the step of recording the invention in the 1970’s and having it notarized and by some miracle my mom found the document, so I was able to prove I had thought of it first. But what I could not prove was I had long considered virtually every AWE concept out there, and that I did not think the average AWE enthusiast had much of a clue. To this day “laddermill” stands as one of SO MANY possibly-promising AWE configurations that nobody has bothered to build. The “Wubbo” crowd quickly degenerated to “buying and flying” regular kites, trying to make power from the pull on the string. I’m like, “what about laddermill?” The whole idea was to overcome the inherent intermittency of mere kite-reeling which ANY idiot could think of, yet they celebrated Wubbo endlessly, used the name “laddermill” for mere off-the-shelf-single-kite-reeling, and to this day, nobody has built even a scale model of a laddermill. To my knowledge, nobody has even tried. With all those interns, all those grad-students, all those “group-selfies”. What are they doing in the selfies, building a laddermill? Nope, they’re are just standing there. Usually in front of some kite that looks like the same kite they were standing in front of the year before, alwys about to “power the grid”, “next year”. How any times can you hear “next year” before you begin to wonder when “next year” will ever roll around? Like kids in the backseat of the car asking “are we almost there yet?” I ask “Is it “next year” yet”? Will it ever actually BE “next year” in AWE? Well “next year” has been the theme for ten years now, and many of the early people saying it are long-gone. Just sayin’… :slight_smile:


Thx. That’s a nice summary of your citicism.

I don’t agree with the laddermill - yo-yo thing. The reason that noone has built the laddermill is just that people think that there wouldn’t be much reason to do so as we have better concepts now. (I agree.)
I don’t think the intermittency of a yo-yo system is much of a problem since the generation phase is longer than the retraction phase (can’t say how much) and it can be overcome by a variety of solutions including batteries, (super)capacitors, two kites, a flywheel and probably more.

The laddermill is difficult to implement. And the downwind motion destroys any eventual “crosswind” component of flight. And some other arrangements to achieve a crosswing flight (left and right around the main tether) are complex. See also the discussion on Laddermill.
So even their developers dropped it, @dougselsam for SuperTurbine ™, Tu Delft for yoyo method as shown on the page 3 of .

A crosswind system with a wing flying by eight or loop figures faces to an irregular power due to the various tether angles; in comparison a rotating device like RotoKite (working by yoyo method) is less efficient but doesn’t suffer from this as the main tether doesn’t move laterally.

A yoyo system faces to its intermittency. Perhaps several unities could compensate it but the management doesn’t look easy. Batteries are expensive, polluting, and lifetime limited. Supercapacitors have a too low autonomy. All temporary storages add significant costs.
Adding a low efficiency (4/27) per swept area, although a high efficiency per wing area, a low power/space ratio when the crosswind method is used, becoming better when a rotating device is used, the requirement of a gear as it scales…

There are perhaps good AWE designs, but they are not still known.

I think that finding the good design is more in the domain of discovery than of invention, because of the many parameters.

Well thanks for making my point: “It;s too difficult” Wow, people are actually willing to say that without ever having even tried for 5 minutes to build a sinlgle laddermill, ever! Not even out of cocktail skewers and tissue-paper! OMG what a bunch of lazy wusses! Go take another selfie and pretend you are geniuses! . Why say there are better choices? How would anyone know? They’ve never even TRIED! And IF laddermill can be so easily discarded, why was Wubbo so celebrated for thinking of it, for so long? If these people are so darn smart, why did they not immediately see laddermill was not worth pursuing? See what I mean? This whole field of wannabe AWE people, collectively, make no sense. Now I mentally moved from the laddermill concept on to SuperTurbine still way bck in the 1970;s, but I never decided it was not worth building a laddermill. And you can bet if I were a university prpfessor with tons of eager grad students and interns ll celebrating “laddermill”, one would have gotten built and tried, somehow. I actually think there would be a progression starting with laddermills that worked but sucked, then fix it a little bit, then a little more, til maybe you could end up with something pretty cool, but it is far easier to “just say” it is “too hard” and go buy a kite and fly it, noting it pulls on a string. Whoopee-doo. People re so helpless these days. Well, I guess most of you are probably looking down at your phone right now, maybe getting ready to take one more group-selfie, so please continue to do so, and thanks for leaving the AWE window wide open for others to make it happen! Thanks for letting us take our time and relax since there is no competition! :))))

Even if it was as little effort as you claim it is not worth doing except for example to commemorate wubbo ockels or because one was challenged by doug.^^
How would one know it’s worse than other approaches? That can be concluded from theory alone. One generally doesn’t solve every question empirically. Could one see better with cucumber juice injected into ones eyeballs? I’d say it’s not worth finding out.^^
I don’t know the people you are talking about and addressing. So I can’t speak for them, but I assume they haven’t discarded the laddermill earlier because they did not know better at the time. Don’t know why these people haven’t made more progress with their yo-yo systems, but I know that there are other poeple who did, the usual suspects being Kitepower B.V., KPS, Kitemill etc.
I’d say there’s plenty of competition in the AWES field.

One thing that is often overlooked: AWES for ship propulsion.
We’ve had the topic but I think it isn’t discussed enough.

I started a discussion specific discussion on Laddermill. I don’t think The Laddermill has a strong mindshare anymore, so please chip in… Laddermill

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“SHIP” propulsion: MORE AWE INSANITY: Who in their right mind would want to make a giant leap from kite-surfing to SHIP propulsion? With that HUGE spectrum od boat sizes in between. How about a small catamaran first? OMG. No, gott “go big”. right? More of the “Superman” “I will easily save the world” complex. Ever heard the saying “learn to walk before you try to run?” Or is it “crawl” before you try to stand up and walk? The LOGICAL, SENSIBLE approach would be to go ONE STEP bigger than kite-surfing, developing kite propulsion for SMALL CRAFT. Like how about a freakin’ DINGHY before a small boat then a bigger boat etc.?

  1. Low cost
  2. faster development
  3. ease of trying various tricks to get it working right
    IF you get the small-craft stuff working well, go a little bigger. Now you potentially have product to sell, as start, rather than spending all your time begging for money through grants, to where you have no time left to actually build and run anything anyway, no matter how much money you have!
    Long long long down the line, as the techniques slowly become refined and a tradition of kites propelling boats is slowly developed, maybe, someday, you MIGHT end up propelling actual ships.
    The field of wannabe AWE is so completely out-to-lunch, SO unrealistic, SO misguided, SO driven by ego and SO ignorant of common sense, not to mention SO gullible, it truly amazes me.
    Come to think of it, I think the most amazing thing about AWE as currently practiced is the incredible lack of common sense, especially among the most highly-publicized participants.

If all those really smart people can’t even TRY to build a laddermill, they were never that smart to begin with. If laddermill can be so easily discrded as not even worth trying to build the most simple and cheap imagineable scale model, nd yet it was so heavily promoted as “the answer”, then, again, the people were never than smart to begin with. I think it is a trgedy how we are being dumbed-down. I remember a guy who had suffered being a “thalidomide baby” He had no arms. His hands came out of his shoulders. He still managed. But when I see kids today stuck on their “smart”-phones, thinking posting on the internet is going to build a working AWE system, I think of that guy with ho arms and how difficult it would be for someone like that to actually BUILD something. That’s how I picture your typical AWE grad-student, intern, employee, whatever: “helpless” with no arms. No way to DO anything, BUILD anything, TRY anything, just the ability to use that phone to chit-chat and take more group selfies…
And where s their guidance? Their leadership? How about “you build this” and “you try that”? What about creating 100 prototypes for $1000 each, or even a thousand prototypes, rather than 1 prototype for a million dollars? Common sense - where is it?

Valid points, expressed in your usual entertaining style.^^

Skysails did actually go bankrupt, but by some legal dark magic skysails yacht and skysails power are still alive and have all the know-how from skysails. So now they are trying again with smaller scale, pretty much what you would have suggested.
The new airseas are going straight for container ship scale. With the backing of airbus and a very secure funding stream I think one can go straight for bigger goals.

I was actually thinking about building a little specialized sailing dinghy since I’ve got a lot of fibreglass from another project. But knowing my productivity… that’s not going to happen any time soon.

I’m wondering why there isn’t more uptake of kiting in the sailing sector.
Maybe because manual steering is not leisurely enough and the sport sailors have tight regulations.
I’d say there’s potential. For propulsion but also for small generators like kitewinder.

Now that’s a proper older person rant.^^ You should make a video. I’m sure it would be popular.
Few people have agency.

I’d recommending starting with an existing boat.

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RC first would probably be the most sensible approach.

Theres nothing wrong having an eye on container ships. I agree that such a ship would not be the first prototype to build, but having a defined goal is a good thing imho, even if it should change along the way

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Yes “having an eye on container ships” is one thing. Trying to implement your early prototypes on container ships reflects the general “delusions of grandeur” afflicting wind-energy wannabes, especially with regard to AWE.

I wouldm’t say not ti try it at RC scale, but regular rowboats, motorboats, and sailboats are still small enough to serve as economically-accessible R&D platforms, while being being large enough to be manned, immersive, useful, and able to be handled, manipulated, operated, and adjusted by onboard personnel, without being so oversized to inhibit free-and-easy low-cost, testing and use without huge budgets, tons of paperwork and legal agreements, expensive insurance, bureaucratic permissions, and unwanted, annoying, unnecessary, activity-stifling complications of all kinds. As usual in AWE, where is the simple common sense?

There are some problems with this approach. Scaling. For a kitesurfing kite, a 5 sqm kite is too fast and beyond 20 sqm they dont turn anymore. If you are always at micro scale, some things are easier and some more difficult. But of course, starting small is generally a sound idea. I think both Makani and Ampyx have started small. They just grew very fast, and you could argue whether they were ready to scale up or not

The following thought occurred to me the other day after reflecting on someone’s mention of comparing AWE to “The Wright Brothers”: I would say the current status of AWE might be similar to the status of flight when balloons were the best we could do. I say this because in both cases, the basic achievement had been demonstrated (flight for balloons, generating some power for AWE), but neither was economical. The idea of using balloons as an intercontinental transportation system would have seemed pretty farfetched and probably involved ideas as unlikely and Rube-Goldberg-esque as the ideas we hear today for AWE. What were they doing wrong? They were stuck on balloons, and not comprehending the next step.

So what is the next step for you @dougselsam? I don’t fully understand your position as you seem to be both an awes developer and an awe detractor.

I think its a valid point of view. Though as of uet we don’t know if our «baloon» (ie AWE) will be viable yet. For sure anyone putting their money on AWE is taking a risk. But the bet could be a good one, risk < probablity of losses. And people with technical skills should be able to assess this risk better than the average guy.

I myself think AWE is most probable to succeed in it’s current shape, for some market.