PowerPlane® systems convert wind power into mechanical power by having an autopilot-controlled glider plane creating pull on a tether by flying repetitive cross-wind patterns at an altitude of 300-600 meters. Conversion to electrical power happens in a ground mounted generator while the tether is extracted. Once the tether has been extracted to full length, the glider plane is controlled to dive to lower altitude, during which phase the tether is retracted. During this reel-in phase, tether tension is minimal and power consumption is only a fraction of power produced during the reel-out phase.
In order to address low wind or extreme weather conditions, fully automated launch & land capabilities are integrated in the system, using a rotating arm launching and landing platform. Weather information feeds into the system controller, based on which the system controller either automatically generates launching or landing instructions, or prompts a human system controller for a decision.
PowerPlane technology minimises the use of materials required for electricity generation. The first commercial 16.5 meter wingspan, 850kW PowerPlane, is projected to produce as much electricity as an 850kW, 50-meter rotor diameter conventional wind turbine. The PowerPlane system replaces the turbine tower and rotor blades, together weighing 120.000kg, by a glider plane and a tether weighing less than 400kg. The ground mounted generator and electronic back-end will be of similar dimensions as used in the nacelle of conventional wind turbines. PowerPlane systems require lower transportation, installation and decommissi oning costs, as well as lower operations and maintenance costs than conventional wind turbines.
Apart from its economic properties, visual and noise impact of PowerPlane systems, due to its size and operating altitudes, will be much less than those of other options for electricity generation.