WPI Professor to Speak about Harnessing Energy from Kites

University's Energy Sustainability Project Center Kicks Off Second Annual Series on Oct. 8
October 06, 2014

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In a nod to its history as an energy innovator, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will kick off its second annual energy seminar series, featuring a professor who researches kites as a sustainable energy source. The seminars are free and open to the public.


David J. Olinger, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering, will discuss the theory, modeling, and operation of kite-based power systems, which he is currently researching via sky and sea. Airborne wind energy systems using kites are an alternative to wind turbines because they can operate at higher altitudes where wind speeds are greater.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Olinger a $300,000 grant to explore ways to harness ocean currents and tidal flows. "You have strong currents off most of the coasts of the world. They are underutilized right now," Olinger said. He will also talk about his research involving low-cost, kite-powered water pumps he hopes could assist developing nations facing water shortages.


Wednesday, Oct. 8, 5 p.m.

Salisbury Laboratories, Room 104

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, Mass.


The Energy Sustainability Project Center is sponsoring the series, which aims to educate and inspire students and faculty on the technical, societal, and policy aspects of energy.

"Energy is an inherent part of all of our lives; it drives our economy," said John Orr, the Center’s director and professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Energy has played a fundamental role in WPI’s nearly 150-year-history. WPI was founded to educate engineers for America’s industrial revolution. This industry drove the economy of the nation, and it was based on energy. Now we see research on sustainable forms of energy across the institution: materials for better batteries and stronger wind turbine blades in mechanical engineering, clean fuel cells in chemical engineering, 'smart grids' in electrical and computer engineering."

Next in the Series

On Nov. 11, the Energy Sustainability Project Center will also host a second seminar featuring Transatomic Power Corp., headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. The company is commercializing a molten salt reactor that safely burns nuclear waste to deliver affordable clean energy.