The start-up Kitewinder wants to bring electricity to outdoor activities enthusiasts, but also to people who are deprived of it. In 2017, Anne-Lise Cabanat, co-head of the OSI-Panthera scientific program, went to Kyrgyzstan with a dozen teenagers. The expedition had one objective: to make young people discover the snow panther.
Developed by the startup Kitewinder, this wind turbine named Kiwee One allowed teenagers to charge their phone and thus not feel completely cut off from the world. “Usually, you don’t need any electricity during the expeditions,” says Anne-Lise Cabanat.
Kiwee One is the result of the collaboration of two renewable energy enthusiasts, Dominique Rochier, who has been working in the sector for several years, and Olivier Normand, who’s an expert in the aerospace industry. By combining their expertise, the two entrepreneurs have designed a device that allows anyone to have a portable renewable energy device.
The device has the shape of a large kite that will, when deployed, allow to capture of electrical energy. When in flight, the small wind turbine can supply 100 Watts. On the ground, a universal socket allows it to power all types of portable objects. The device is waterproof and the electronic map of the wind turbine is tropicalized, that is to say, conditioned to withstand extreme weather conditions.
One of its key features is that it is not required to hold the device in hand to harvest energy. It is possible to hang it on a tree stump, the handrail of a boat, the hitch ball of a car…
In short, any nomadic lifestyle device. Another difference with the recreational kite we know: Kiwee One can rise from 30 to 60 meters above sea level. The wind does not blow in the same way depending on the altitude, aiming to capture it at different levels is, therefore, a huge plus for this device.
Reinventing wind energy
The start-up has not failed to attract the attention of public investors. Since 2018, it has benefited from the support of Ademe, the French agency for the environment and energy management. In the process, it was distinguished under the Major Investment Plan put in place by the State and the European Union. This program was endowed with 57 billion euros. This has allowed Kitewinder to strengthen the endurance and performance of its solution.
The start-up was thus able to start marketing last August. The Kiwee One device remains expensive: it costs 650 euros per device. This pushes the start-up not only to target individuals in search of electrical self-sufficiency. It also targets the market for outdoor activities, such as sailing schools or campsites, which might be interested in creating effortless charging points for their customers. “At the same time, we are also reaching out to NGOs to develop energy self-sufficiency in areas where electricity is still lacking” explains Olivier Normand, co-founder of Kitewinder. Several Kiwee One devices should be given to Kyrgyz populations during the next expedition with OSI Panthera.
This young Start-up is just one example of what some see as the future of wind energy: kites able to evolve at very important altitudes to capture the winds at their maximum, and especially offshore, where the ocean is too deep to install turbines. “More than 250 organizations are currently carrying out research and development on this type of device, but we are the only ones to propose kites that produce below 100 Watts”, says Olivier Normand. Google has also invested in a Californian project of large offshore kites.