A former Dutch astronaut with the euphonious name of Wubbo J. Ockels has come up with an unusual, even unlikely, wind energy invention. Best described as a looped kite “ladder” in the sky, Dr. Ockels’ inspiration is to use the stiff breezes at high altitudes as an energy source.
His series of kites, or alternatively tethered wings, connected in train to a cable forming a huge loop would serve to produce electricity on the ground by having the kite line pass through a generator. Such a device would be both cost effective and environmentally correct. That’s the theory.
Ockels, 55, who made two trips into space as an astronaut, is now an aerospace professor at the Delft University of Technology and head of the European Space Agency’s educational outreach office. He says he conceived his invention, patented in the U.S. under the name Laddermill, because of high altitude kite flying he did as a boy, when he had to enlist his parents to help him reel in the powerful kites he made and flew. His experiences as a pilot of light aircraft and of gliders reinforced his notions on the potential of wind power.