TwingTec, a company spun out of Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, is developing an alternative to wind turbines for harnessing the power of the wind.
Wind speeds increase as you move further from the ground. Wind blows up to eight times faster at a height of 500 metres than it does at 120 metres, which is the hub height of most modern wind turbines.
TwingTec’s prototype, which looks like a glider attached to a cable, rises like a kite as the wind takes hold of it. The rotation of the cable spool generates electricity as the glider climbs. Once the glider reaches a certain altitude it is put into a dive before repeating the cycle. The device can fly far higher than a wind turbine allowing it to operate in more powerful winds.
TwingTec’s technology belongs to a field known as Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) or wind drones.
A 30 minute test flight last year in the Jura mountain range in western Switzerland proved that TwingTec’s technology works.
The T29, TwingTec’s latest prototype scheduled for testing in November 2019, has been designed to automatically take off and land, allowing it to run repeatedly without human intervention.
The model after the T29, with a wingspan of 15 metres, is expected to generate enough electricity to power 60 homes.
The technology is best suited to remote areas, according to TwingTec CEO Rolf Luchsinger, so it is unlikely to be used in Switzerland. “We are talking to mining companies, mayors of remote settlements and people on islands. Today those places mostly use diesel generators that emit exhaust gases and noise”, said Luchsinger.
On 15 October 2019, TwingTec will present its latest prototype at the 8th Airborne Wind Energy Conference in Glasgow, a forum for companies working on AWE.