Kite Power for Developing Countries

An emerging technology for affordable, reliable and clean electricity

Poster presentation at AWEC 2013 in Berlin

The Airborne Wind Energy Conference (AWEC) 2013 will be held in Berlin on 10.-11. September. A poster on the topic ‘Kite Power for Developing Countries’ will be presented based on my MSc thesis research on the same project.

An abstract is available in the media library. If you live in Berlin and are interested in kite power technology or Airborne Wind Energy in general, just drop by. Most likely there will be system demonstration on the Tempelhof airfield on Monday the 9th September, depending on the weather conditions.

Kenya review

The third and final stop of my trip was Kenya, where I basically stayed in the capital Nairobi the entire time. Although the climate was more pleasant, the traffic was not. Getting from point A to point B within the city center proved to be very time-consuming. However, I had the chance to meet organizations, companies and associations related to my research and once again: kite power technology was very well received.

Similarly to earlier reviews, my major visits are shortly discussed below. If you have any further questions to one or more appointments and their results please feel free to contact me anytime.

Rural Electrification Authority

The equivalent of the Rural Energy Agency in Tanzania is named Rural Electrification Authority (REA). Their mission is to “…efficiently provide high quality and affordable electricity connectivity in all rural areas and to achieve high standards of customer service through advancing community participation to ensure long term sustainability and socio-economic development.” (REA, 2013)

Meeting with one of the employees resulted in a very lively discussion, the results of which showed again that kite power systems feature many of the ideal characteristics to overcome the barriers and challenges that are persistent in the efforts towards rural electrification.

Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute

Located in the outskirts of Nairobi, the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) is a national research institute established in 1979 that is involved in several disciplines like technology development and reverse engineering, process and product development for value addition and to generate information geared towards policy formulation. They also strive to collaborate with other research and relevate bodies both locally and internationally.

Especially for collaboration on a pilot project, KIRDI could be a supporting partner in many fields. The expertise ranges from theoretical R&D efforts to more practical work with the focus of problem solving.


The company RIWIK was founded by the Dutch entrepreneurs Eric de Jong and Bart Fugers and started its operations in Kenya in the beginning of 2012. RIWIK provides wind turbines, solar panels and solar powered water pumps to households, businesses and institutions in rural Kenya. Acting as the CEO, former SET student Bart Fugers could share crucial information regarding the obstacles he faced within the last years of starting a local company in Kenya.

Kenya Renewable Energy Association

Similar to the Tanzanian organization TAREA, the Kenya Renewable Energy Association is an independent non-profit association dedicated to facilitating the growth and development of renewable energy business in Kenya. Especially to identify and promote synergies, KEREA can play an important role in both the realization of a pilot project and commercial efforts in the near future.

Climate Innovation Centre

The Climate Innovation Centre (CIC) is a consortium of four parties: Strathmore Business School, PWC, KIRDI and GEVP International. Its mission is to “…provide an integrated set of services, activities and programmes that empowers Kenyan entrepreneurs to deliver innovative climate technology solutions.” (CIC, 2013).

The application for the fund that they offer will be submitted in the near future. Being granted this fund would mean a very serious step towards the realization of a pilot project.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority

For both a pilot project and commercialization, regulatory agencies regarding the air space play an important role. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) is the local body that takes all the major decisions. Currently we are in contact with them to discuss the topic.

Closing remarks

This post will be the last of my trip and by now I arrived safely back in Delft. The upcoming weeks will show which of the many opportunities will be pursued. Together with my teammate Manuel Vargas we will have finalized a business plan for kite power in developing countries by the end of next month. Applications will be filled in and pitches in front of investors will be held.

All news and updates will also be posted here and on Twitter. As always, I invite everyone to participate in the discussion on this topic. Let’s work together towards the best solution possible.

Interesting blog about clean energy in Tanzania

Energy and environment consultants Andrew and Elizabeth run an informative and interesting blog on Energy and Environment in Tanzania. If you are interested, please check it out and participate in the discussion!

Tanzania review

Yesterday the second part of my trip came to an end and I changed capitals from Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam to Kenya’s Nairobi. My stay in Tanzania, however, began in Kigoma. A small city located in the country’s west. After the busy life in Dakar, Kigoma was a welcomed change to process the events of the first two weeks. Another change that I didn’t mind too much could be seen in the language. Most people are bilingual and speak both English and Swahili.

Tanzania is structured in municipalities, districts and regions and I was able to meet several representatives of the various levels of administration. Soon it became clear, that the access to electricity is a major issue in the area, since all electricity in Kigoma is generated by the Tanzanian electric utility company TANESCO using diesel generators. The entire fuel amount needs to be transported across the country, which is very costly. During my stay in Kigoma I experienced several power cuts myself, ranging from minutes to hours and even days.

Although it was not part of the initial plan, I adjusted my schedule and changed flights so that I can spend almost one week in Tanzania’s capital as well. The reason for that is that many organizations and companies have their headquarters or only office located in Dar es Salaam. Here I had the chance to meet many people who were very positive about the project and it was also possible to meet with the Tanzanian parliamentarian Zitto Kabwe, who met Prof. dr. Wubbo Ockels in Aruba last year.

Below, the main findings and results of some of the meetings and appointments will be summarized in a brief manner.

Rural Energy Agency

The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Energy and Minerals. Its main role is to promote access to modern energy services in rural areas of Mainland Tanzania (REA, 2013). A meeting with the Director of Technical Services proved that kite power comes at the right time to the right place. Rural electrification is a major issue in the country and experiences more and more attention and support, not only from the government but also from NGOs and companies. Due to his large network and significant influence in the sector of renewables I was forwarded to numerous other entities active in the field.

Tanzania Renewable Energy Association

The member based NGO Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) is an association for renewable energy stakeholders standing for the recognition of the excellence of renewable energy technologies (TAREA, 2013). Its main activities are Education & Research, Information & Knowledge, Projects, Networking and finally services that are provided for its members. More than 35 professional partners exist as of now and I decided to become a member of TAREA myself. It might serve as an ideal base for finding partners for both a pilot project and commercial attempts in the future.


Also located in Dar es Salaam is the Renewable Energy Development Company. Redcot is specialized in designing, installation, sales and maintenance of various sustainable energy technologies, among others wind energy, biogas and –fuels, solar heating and solar energy as well as electrical power back-up systems and the transmission and distribution of electrical power. Meeting both directors and explaining kite power technology was a great success. The idea of harvesting wind energy from high altitudes in rural areas is very promising in their opinion and Redcot is interested in working together on the technology in the future.

Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology

Since there are still a lot of research opportunities available on the topic of Airborne Wind Energy, a collaboration with a local university is a great chance to share knowledge and work together towards an innovative solution for reliable and affordable electricity generation. Meeting with the heads of department of all the disciplines that come together in kite power technology (mechanical, electrical and control engineering) resulted in general support of the project and an appointment to meet the principle of DIT as well. Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology has worked with other international universities in the past and is open and positive about working together with TU Delft in the future.

Tanzanian parliamentarian Zitto Kabwe

During my stay in Dar es Salaam, I also got the chance to meet with Zitto Kabwe. The influential parliamentarian has the vision to reduce poverty in the rural areas of his country. He sees a great potential to reach this goal by introducing kite power systems to remote villages, where there is no access to electricity as of now. His knowledge, not only about administrative but also general processes in Tanzania will be of utmost importance for a fast and efficient realization of a pilot project.

Closing remarks

All in all, the visit to Tanzania was a great success. I could not only see and experience the real need for innovative solutions for electrification, but also identify many opportunities how kite power technology can be implemented in the near future. The next step consists of working towards the realization of a pilot project, which can be seen as a milestone on the road to commercial deployments.

Dakar review

Two weeks have rushed past and it‘s time to summarize my visit to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Arriving on a Friday I had the weekend to acclimatize, both with respect to the climate and the new environment. Another aspect that I had slightly underestimated was the language barrier. Most people only spoke French and Wolof, which meant for me that I had to reactivate my French skills from high school. At this point I would like to thank Michelle Johnson and Jessica Bollyn for the translation of several documents, among others the feasibility study of kite power in Senegal, the kite power flyer of the research group and the TEDx presentation of Roland Schmehl, which made it possible for me to also reach those whose main language was French. Also, making an effort in the local language was always most welcomed and gladly received.

After a couple of days I was able to find my way around. The location of the hostel in the center of the Dakar peninsula served as an ideal base to explore the area and easily get in touch with partners from different districts. The main findings of the appointments and meetings with the different organizations and entities will be summarized briefly. Additionally, the link section provides all the relevant information for the interested reader.

Ministry of Energy

During the first week I met with a representative of the Minstry of Energy of Senegal (Ministère de l’Energie et des Mines). He showed great interest in the technology of kite power. However, at the moment their ministry is told to reduce costs due to an economical regression in the country. This is also the reason why the introduction of feed-in-tariffs for renewables (mainly PV, wind and biomass) were postponed. According to his opinion feed-in-tariffs are likely to be introduced within approximately 6 months. The exact rates for the respective sustainable energy technologies are yet to be settled. With respect to the installation of a pilot project of kite power technology he offered support and suggested a location near the coast between the cities Dakar and St. Louis. This has the advantage that it is placed sufficiently far away for them airport in Dakar. There is a lot of transit and exchange between St. Louis and Dakar, which is beneficial for visiting the site for both research and maintenance. Moreover, the system would be seen by many people, which is favorable for marketing and awareness purposes.

CERER (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur les Energies Renouvelables)

The center of studies and research for renewable energies (CERER) has its campus located in the eastern part of Dakar. It is the department for renewable energy within the University of Dakar (UCAD), which is the largest university in Senegal with more than 80,000 students.

After first meeting with the responsible engineer for the department of photovoltaics and control quality, I was given the opportunity to present the work of the research group in front of several guests, among others the director of CERER and the German researcher who is working with CERER.

I chose to give the presentation in French, which went quite well followed by an extensive Q&A. Both students and staff members showed great interest in the technology and asked valuable questions with respect to several important issues that need to be addressed in the upcoming months: airspace regulation, reliability, safety and costs just to name a few.

What is more, the CERER representatives indicated strong interest in a collaboration of TU Delft and CERER as well. In the near future, the possibilities and opportunities for projects and student exchange in both directions will be identified and put into action. CERER also showed interest in the theoretical aspect of the topic of airborne wind energy (AWE) and kite power in particular.


Located on the campus of ESP (Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique), innodev is an incubator that focuses on technology startups. The ESP itself is again part of the UCAP. I was able to meet the director of innodev, who has a background in physics and atmospheric sciences, meaning that he understood the concept and potential of kite power very well. Additionally he started his own company that produces small-scale wind turbines for the rural areas of Senegal.

He showed great interest in combining his trip to Europe with a visit to Delft, especially the faculty of Aerospace Engineering and the Yes!Delft incubator. Further, he was positive towards collaboration in the future in several ways: between the two universities of TU Delft and ESP, between the two incubators Yes!Delft and innodev, but also between his start-up and a potential kite power spin-off in the future.

According to his opinion, a kite power system would best fit in rural areas. That is, where a lot of problems with respect to electricity exist and a lot of people are still without any access to electricity at all.

What is more, he had concrete ideas of how the technology could be applied on specific applications such as the production of UHT milk (e.g. in collaboration with a Dutch company). He showed interest in ideas that strive to replace the battery system with e.g. hydro storage combined with water pumping.

Closing remarks

It has proven difficulty to update the blog due to internet access being only available via 3G for the phone, which was not capable of loading the page. However, for more frequent (though brief) news, please also check out the twitter page.

Government investment in off grid power projects

Kenya Power is developing renewable power projects in North Eastern and Rift Valley at a total cost of Shs.560 million (approx. €5 million) to complement diesel generation in areas not connected to the national grid (off grid).

More can be read in the official news article of Kenya Power.

Trip overview flyer now available

An overview of my trip is now available in a flyer format. It also includes the mission and objective as well as parties and contacts that will be visited.

Keep informed about Kite Power for Developing Countries!

This blog will serve as an information platform for the ongoing research on Kite Power for Developing Countries. For more information about Kite Power technology and the research group at TU Delft, please check out the KitePower research group homepage.

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