Zephyr, the photovoltaic kite to power isolated areas

Brands talk to JDN readers –

Halfway between a kite and a balloon, Zephyr will soon be able to supply electricity from solar energy to a disaster area anywhere on the planet within a few hours. A project far from being far-fetched.

Bringing energy to where it is needed and especially when it is needed. This is the challenge that the Zephyr project is trying to meet, a photovoltaic kite capable of producing electricity from solar energy. On paper, it is about developing an energy kit that deploys a 15m² sail covered with small photovoltaic panels. A cable carries the electricity to a box on the ground. This sail is inflated with hydrogen thanks to an electrolyser. Only nine litres of water are needed. Half a day after its delivery, Zephyr is ready for use. In the air, the Zephyr sail offers a large reception surface for the sun’s rays. During the day, this solar energy is distributed in real time, and at night, nine batteries take over to dispose of the surplus stored during the day.

Designed to bring electricity to refugee camps or areas affected by natural disasters, a Zephyr could produce 3 MWh (megawatts per hour), which would supply a makeshift hospital, light 15 tents and deploy a telecommunications network in a camp. Enough to make bulky, dangerous and noisy generators look like a thing of the past. If the concept was initially thought for the refugee camps, one already imagines a festival use or for the private individuals.

A prototype of photovoltaic kite should soon be tested and within two years a first model could be marketed. But there are still technical issues to resolve. Starting with the improvement of the output of the solar panel. The Zephyr project is being led by three French students, Karen Assaraf, a student at Télécom ParisTech, and two students from the Arts Décoratifs de Paris, Julie Dautel and Cédric Tomissi, and can in any case count on prestigious sponsors: the Institute for Research and Development on Photovoltaic Energy and EDF R&D. Proof, if it were necessary, that this idea of solar kite is not so far-fetched.

A high-flying kite at an altitude of 1,000 meters

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