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* Correspondence address. Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, P.O.

Box 5058, 2600GB


Delft, Netherlands. Tel.: #31-71-565-3505; fax: #31-71-565-5590.
E-mail address: wubbo.ockels@worldonline.nl (W.J. Ockels).
Also at: O-Mill BV Laddermill development comp. Boekenroodeweg 45, 2111HK Aerdenhout, Netherlands.
Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
Laddermill, a novel concept to exploit the energy in the airspace
Wubbo J. Ockels'*
Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5058, 2600GB Delft, Netherlands
'European Space Agency, ESTEC P.O. Box 299, 2200AG Noordwijk, Netherlands
Abstract
A very signi"cant amount of wind energy is contained in the movements of air at high altitudes.
A particular invention (Laddermill Patent Ned. 1004508. Nov. 1996 applications Europe and USA), named
`laddermilla, is described that allows exploiting this energy using the winds up to possibly the tropopause.
A `laddermilla is a self-supporting systemthat consists of an endless cable connected to a series of high-lifting
wings or kites moving up in a linear fashion, combined with a series of low-lifting wings or kites going down.
The cable drives an energy generator placed on the ground. Dutch measured wind statistics are presented
that show the immense power source at high altitudes. Some general physical considerations are given for the
laddermill. Three simulation programmes were developed independently by di!erent institutions. The results
give a good consistency of the laddermill shape and power production. Design solutions are indicated for the
wing attitude control and stability and a concept for the ground station is presented providing wing and
cable handling. Adaptation to weather is given by #exible retrieval and deployment capability. Comparisons
are shown with existing wind turbines. An operational model and related cost model have been made that
include an operation strategy that optimises the economical e!ectiveness of the wings, cable and ground
station. This operational model has been applied to the actual wind measurements over a period of 10 years.
The results show, in comparison to the existing horizontal axes wind turbines, (i) a potential for signi"cantly
larger amount of wind energy production and (ii) an indication that this can be done at signi"cantly lower
cost. The public acceptance has been assessed, resulting in a positive perception of elegance of the low speed
and silent movements combined with the excitement from reaching impressive altitudes. Safety and potential
aviation interference are also addressed. 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
1369-8869/01/$- see front matter 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
PII: S 1 3 6 9 - 8 8 6 9 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 0 0 2 - 7
Fig. 1. The attitude of the up-going wing maximising the lift.
Fig. 2. The attitude of the down-going wing, resulting in a small force parallel to the up-going wing force.
1. The laddermill design concept
The `laddermilla consists of a self-supporting series of high-lifting wings or kites that move up in
a linear fashion, combined with a series of low-lifting wings or kites that go down, called the
translator, and a ground station that contains the (electric) energy generator being driven by the
translator.
1.1. The translator
The up-going wings form a ladder (compare kite train) with wings set for maximum lift. The
upper wings are exposed to high wind forces and thus create a strong lift, su$cient for pulling up
the lower wings, even when the surface wind is low or not existing. At the top, the wings will be set
to a low lift with which they will be guided down by the cable. In principle wings, when seen as
sailplanes, would always be able to come down, when "rst brought to altitude.
The angle of attack of the up-going wings is selected to give a maximum possible lift (see Fig. 1)
while the down-going wings are set such that the total force is in the same direction as for the
up-going ones, but of much smaller value (see Fig. 2).
A possible design is one in which the down-going and up-going wings are connected to, in this
case, one endless cable loop. A calculated shape is shown in Fig. 3.
The cable pulled upward are driving an energy generator, placed on the ground. The number of
wings attached to the cable(s) can be adapted to the wind condition, while the length of the cable
loop can also be varied. This #exibility will allow the necessary adaptation to changing weather
conditions, while maintaining a rather stable power performance over a wide range of wind speeds.
82 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
Fig. 3. The shape of a laddermill. Note that the wind side goes down and the lee side up.
Fig. 4. Design example for creating a di!erent AOA for the up-going and down-going wings.
In the case where wind speeds are so low that the laddermill would not be supported by su$cient
lift, the loop is retracted. For deployment some lighter than air balloons or helium-"lled wings can
be used at the initial deployment phase.
Several methods can be envisioned to adjust the angle of attack (AOA) to maximize lift when
going up and to a low to zero lift when going down, one example is shown in Fig. 4. A typical design
of an advanced wing, that would allow full aeroplane-like control, is shown in Fig. 5 [1].
1.2. The ground station
The ground station has two basic functions, the "rst is the transformation of the mechanical
power of the translator into electrical energy, and the second is the handling and control of the
translator. The generator can be a typical standard high rpm generator, adapted for the high-force
and low-speed transmission by a gear box [2].
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 83
Fig. 5. A single cable wing design.
The wing and cable handling may look similar to a ski-lift station, where the wings * like cabins
* are detached from the cable upon arrival and reattached at departure. A separate logistics for
the wings would then be required. This approach allows for #exibility in the number of wings
deployed, choice of di!erent wings and replacement of malfunctioning wings.
Similarly, the cable can be segmented and these segments can be decoupled at the intake and
reattached at the other side where the cable reels out [3]. A separate logistics for cable ends can
thus be installed similar to that for the wings.
Each cable segment (a typical length could be 220 m, which is the standard production length)
can be individually inspected during operation of each `loopa (typically 1 hr), thus reducing the risk
for cable rupture. The high performance "bers used show considerable creep due to the continuous
load [4]. A typical rejection would occur at 10% accumulated elongation, which would be easy to
measure and thus would provide a reliable monitoring capability.
Two independent cable controls (reels) will allow retraction or deployment. This approach
provides #exibility for the cable length (translator maximum altitude) and would facilitate the roll
in and roll out procedure as well as the inspection and replacement of cable segments. This
adaptability will be speci"cally applied in the operation strategy (see Section 6.2).
1.3. Safety
Two safety concerns are addressed here:
E the translator falls down due to lack of wind,
E collision risk with aeroplanes.
For safety reasons soft, maybe in#atable, wings made of lightweight structures are preferred.
A system using such wings and high-performance low-weight "bres for the cable would, in calm
weather, actually fall at a speed similar to the normal operation speed. In the case of a sudden lack
84 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
of wind, therefore, a normal retraction speed would provide safe retraction. As the cable speed of
5 m/s is typical (see Section 4.1), a safe upper limit for the wing loading would be (1 kg/m`. Such
limit seems easily achievable when considering lightweight structures designed to withstand
a rather benign dynamic pressure of 250 Pa (see Section 6.2).
For aircraft pilots a laddermill is a relatively stationary object in the atmosphere. When
providing adequate position and altitude information (GPS and radar transponder) air tra$c
control can assure safe separation, similar as between other aeroplanes. A radar re#ector on each
wing will provide the aeroplanes-based anti-collision system with the necessary information and
warnings to the pilot.
2. Forces and cable diameter (one cable version)
For n wings going up, the total lift and drag force is given by
"nq`C
*
S,
D"nq`C
"
S, (1)
where q`"0.5,<`` is the dynamic pressure averaged over the altitude covered by the
laddermill.
The aerodynamic force on the cable can be split into the perpendicular drag force and the along
side friction force. Wind tunnel measurements have con"rmed [5] that these forces can be seen
resulting from the wind speed in the perpendicular, respectively, along side direction. The drag
component perpendicular to the cable is thus
D
''s
"nq`(sin)`C
"
dAl, (2)
whereas the component along side is
D
''v
"nq`(cos )`C
'
dAl (3)
where is the angle of the cable with the direction of the apparent wind, d is the cable diameter and
Al is the length of cable between wings. The force from (3) is typically an order of magnitude smaller
than from (2) and can be ignored here.
The total up-going force can thus be approximated as
F
"
"((!=)`#D`!D`
''s
, (4)
where = is the total weight of wings and cables.
The force downward will obviously be made smaller than the force upward. The total cable force
will thus be less than twice the upward force and this has to be less than the maximumforce that the
cable can hold. This requirement can be written as
2F
"
(F
`
"
o
s
'
d`
4
, (5)
where s
'
is the safety factor and o denotes the ultimate cable tensile stress.
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 85
For a rough estimate of the required diameter, the cable force can be taken as equal to the lift.
The result is
d`
'"
*
4

s
'
o
nq`C
*
S. (6)
From (6) one observes that for a given cable diameter and wing size, nq` can be adjusted to
accommodate di!erent wind conditions while maintaining a constant cable force, i.e. by varying
n and/or q`. Adapting the altitude reached by the translator can vary the q`.
3. Power and economics
3.1. Power production estimate
A rough assessment can be made about the power production and economics of the laddermill.
The available power is given by
P"<
''
(F
"
!F
`"
), (7)
where the forces will depend on the dynamic pressure and wing attitudes and somewhat on the
cable speed (see Fig. 6).
The KNMI data [6] shows (see also Section 5) that the dynamic pressure averaged over the
altitude range 0}10 km corresponds to 11 m/s at sea level, i.e. q`"90 N/m`. The 10 percentile
value corresponds to 4 m/s, i.e. q`"10 N/m` and the 90 percentile to 19 m/s, i.e. q`"200 N/m`.
Furthermore, over the typical range of altitudes considered (0}10 km), the average wind power
density (W/m`) can be calculated and is roughly
p`+1.6<`q`, (8)
where the factor 1.6 is a result of the high-speed skewness of the wind speed distribution.
Model calculations show that the cable speed at which the maximum power is delivered is
approximately 1/3 times the average wind speed (see Fig. 6 and examples in Table 2). The net
usable force for power generation (up-going minus down-going) is then some 60% of the up-going
lift force (4). The value of 60% results form the reduced relative wind speed due to the cable speed
(see Fig. 1).
With (1) and (7) we then obtain
P+
`
<
''
nq`C
*
S, (9)
where
<
''
"
`
<`. (10)
Using Eq. (9) one can also estimate the average total wing surface required for an average output of
1 kW (C
*
"1.3, q`"45}90 N/m` for 2000}10,000m),
2nS
P
+12}6 (m`/kW), (11)
where 2n wings are needed, i.e. up- and down-going.
86 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
Fig. 6. Power and up-going and down-going cable forces for the case of a laddermill as calculated in Section 6.2.
3.2. Cost comparison with existing wind turbine
Eq. (9) can be further approximated, using (8) and C
*
"1.3:
P+0.15p`A, (12)
where A"nS is the total wing surface.
Taking account of the power expression in form (12) allows direct comparison with a horizontal
axis wind turbine (HAWT). For a standard HAWT, the maximum power generated can be
expressed as [7]
P
'^`'
)"
``
pA.
For comparison, however, an average power needs to be used, leading to
P
'^`'
+0.25p`A, (13)
where A"R`, the surface covered by the rotating blades of length R. In (13) the factor 0.25 results
from taking the calculator [8] and the data for the existing 600 kW HAWTthat delivers on average
150 kW at the location [8].
Note that in the literature often the installed (maximum) power is used together with a capacity
factor. The capacity factor (ranging typically between 0.2 and 0.4) gives the average power, i.e. the
real production. In this paper only the average power is used.
As a result, the Laddermill power production (12) can now be compared directly with the HAWT
power production (13), by comparing the Laddermill total wing surface with the rotor area of the
HAWT. A comparison of cost can also be made, i.e. comparing the cost of a lightweight lifting
surface with the cost of fast rotating blades.
A fundamental advantage of the laddermill is the fact that p` reaches much higher values than
in the case of a HAWT, the latter being practically limited to altitudes of some 100 m (see Fig. 9).
The installation cost of a laddermill can be estimated using (11). When assuming the cost of 1 m`
of a wing as typically Fl 100, for a parafoil-type and Fl 500, for advanced light weight structure and
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 87
Table 1
Comparison of the three simulator models
Type A small Type B medium Type C large
Wing size (m`) 20 60 1000
Mass wings (kg) 10 30 500
Distance (m) 10 20 65
No. of wings (2n) 52 416 416
Cable diam (mm) 3 22 160
O-Mill
Cable speed (m/s) 1.8 3.4 5.8
Height (m) 207 3411 11,137
Power (kW) 11.3 1420 58,900
TU Delft
Cable speed (m/s) 2.0 3.4 5.2
Height (m) 207 3216 11,100
Power (kW) 11 1220 47,800
ECN
Cable speed 2.3 4.2 7.0
Height (m) 207 3360 11,500
Power (kW) 10 1290 58,800
p` (kW/m`) 0.11 0.5 1.5
(12) 9.1 1000 50,000
assuming that the cost of the laddermill will be twice the cost of wings (i.e. including cost of ground
station and cable), the cost per average installed kW ranges roughly from 0.6 to 6 kFl/kW.
The installation cost for existing HWT is some 1000 US$/kW [8] where the maximum power is
taken, and not the average! Using a practical power coe$cient (capacity factor) of 0.25 [8], the
resulting installation cost per average producing kW will be 8.8 KFl/kW. When one realises that
this value has been obtained after 30 yr of substantial development, it may become apparent that
the laddermill has a signi"cant economical potential.
A more detailed cost model is shown in Section 6.3.
4. The laddermill simulations
Three simulation programmes were independently developed:
E a simple Pascal programme LADDER by O-Mill [9] (made by the author), giving the power as
a function of cable speed and the overall shape of the cable(s) [10],
E a programme JLADDER, developed by the Delft University of Technology, under contract of
O-Mill, that shows the full dynamics of the cable(s) as a function of the cable speed [11],
E a more detailed programme developed by ECN, also under contract of O-Mill, that involves
a particular wing design and a method for achieving the di!erence in angle of attack between up-
and down-going wings [12].
88 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
Three laddermill cases were calculated for comparison, a small-scale model A, a medium-scale
model B and a large-scale model C. The results are shown in Table 1.
4.1. O-Mill [1] simulation [10]
A pascal programme LADDER has been written for a static simulation of a laddermill. The forces
are calculated of the up-going wings and the angle that the cable follows. The up-going wings have
a "xed angle of attack (AOA), at the level for which the highest usable lift is produced (see Fig. 1).
The AOA of the down-going wings are adjusted such that the force (lift#drag#weight) is
pointing in the same average direction as the up-going wings (see Fig. 2).
The lift and drag coe$cients as used in (1) are calculated as follows (see a standard book on
aerodynamics):
C
"
"C
""
#kC`
*
,
C
*
"C
*?
:, (14)
where the value of 0.1 is chosen for C
""
, which is conservative. Note that in the comparison in
Section 4.4 even the value of 0.2 is taken
k"
1#t/c
AR
,
C
*?
"1.7

1#0.8
t
c
, (15)
where t/c is the wing thickness over cord length, and AR is the aspect ratio.
The programme calculates the shape of the up-going and down-going cables for various speeds
of the cable. The wind pro"les used are the actual measured pro"les by KNMI [6].
At a particular cable speed the programme computes "rst the properties of the up-going wings.
The upper most wing force is calculated "rst, after which a loop goes down from the maximum
altitude in steps of the wing distance. At each step the wing force is calculated and added to the
total force of all preceding wings above. In this way the cable shape for the up-going wings is
produced:
h
G
"h
G
!sin
G
Al,
,
G
",
"
eFG &,

G
"0.5,
G
<`
G
C
*
S,
D
G
"0.5,
G
<`
G
C
"
S,
F
WG
"F
WG
#
WG
#D
WG
!mg!D
''
cos
G
,
F
VG
"F
VG
#
VG
#D
VG
#D
''
sin
G
,
0
G
"arctan
F
WG
F
VG
. (16)
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 89
Table 2
Laddermil cost estimation
The result using KNMI Wind data 1970}1980
n
}
max"500
q
}
max"250.00
h
}
max"9000
Wings: 30 m`, 20.00 kg CLmax: 1.30 Cd0: 0.10
Cable: 40.00 mm, mass per wing: 37.11kg
Minimum safety factor"2.0
Total production in kWh: 1.9478921368E#08, percentage deployed 76.36%
av. height: 7058 m max: 11852
av. power: 2224.23kW max: 7065.83
av. <: 5.03 m/s max: 2.76 av. V during deployment 6.59
av. safety: 4.34 max: 43.74
av. wing F: 1.2E#03 N max: 32530.4
av. force: 4.9E#05 N max: 1.4E#06
av. n
}
vl: 351.0 max: 549.0
av. q
}
max: 123.8 Pa max: 255.0
av. q`h: 74.7 Pa max: 218.8
Statistics boundary conditions:
(corresponding energy fraction involved)
n down to n
}
max 165 (0.29%)
n down for force 831 (28.43%)
n down for distance 558 (11.28%)
q
}
max reduced height 1179 (31.19%)
Cost calculation according simple ECN model:
Mass wings: 1.1E#04 kg
Mass cable: 2.0E#04 kg
Total investment: 4779.6kFl
Cost wings kFl 878.4} per year(/4yr): 219.6kFl"25.7%
Cost line kFl 1629.6 per year (/4 yr): 407.4 kFl"47.7%
Cost line (2000 m`500.-/m`) per year (/10 yr): 115.3kFl"13.5%
Cost generator per year (/10 yr): 111.9kFl"13.1%
Total cost per year: 854.2kFl"100.0%
Production per year: 1.94843E#07 kWh
Cost per kWh: 4.38 cent/kWh
The C
*
and C
"
are taken using (14) and D
''v
from (3). The maximum AOA : is chosen here 143
(up-going wings).
For the down-going wings a routine is written that adjusts the AOA for each wing in such a way
that the resultant force is in the direction given by the two end points of the cables of the up-going
wings. The result is a straight down-going cable, see Fig. 6.
The values for power as a function of the cable speed show a maximum roughly at 1/3 of the
average wind speed (see Fig. 6 and Table 2).
90 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
4.2. Delft University of Technology simulation model [11]
A continuum model for describing the cable and wings has been developed in which cable
bending sti!ness is ignored. The movement of a segment of the cable is given by
m
'
a"fM#
cN
cs
, (17)
in which m
'
is the mass per unit length, a"x( the acceleration, fM the force per unit length, N the
normal force and s is the co-ordinate along the cable.
To calculate the stationary solution, a moving co-ordinate is introduced:
s'"s!<
''
t. (18)
The equations of motion then become
m
'
(xK !2<x '#<`x")"(Nt
V
)'#f
V
,
m
'
(yK !2<y '#<`y")"(Nt
W
)'#f
W
. (19)
The solution can be split into the normal forces resulting from the movement and the static
solution for the other forces.
The normal force resulting from the movement is
N
T
"m
'
<`(1#c), (20)
in which c is the dimensionless cable elongation.
The equations of motion (19) are solved using Newton}Raphson iteration. Calculations have
been done with a constant AOA for the up-going wings and another smaller constant AOA for the
down-going wings. The down-going AOA was determined by creating su$cient lift to maintain an
upward force in the cable.
Typical results of the shapes of the cable are shown in Fig. 7.
From the results it can be seen that the down-going and up-going cable form a stable span with
su$cient space in between. The higher cable speed `opensa the loop. This e!ect can be explained by
considering the direction of the apparent wind (see Figs. 1 and 2). For the lower cable speeds,
however, additional provisions need to be installed to increase to drag for the up-going wings, such
as to keep the up-going cable behind the down-going even for cable speed that equals zero. The out
of plane stability has not been shown. At this time a passive wing shape that would provide out of
plane stability has not been found [13]. Some kind of stability control, related to the direction of
gravity may need to be implemented (`autopilota).
4.3. Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN) simulation model [12]
In the approach of ECN the upper wing and its connected cables are dynamically simulated,
whereas the up-going part and down-going part are statically simulated. Contrary to the above-
mentioned simulator, the work done by ECN includes the moments of the wing and its proper
attachment point to the cable. The AOA is obtained via a leverage that pushes the wings either
towards a larger AOA for the up-going wings, or towards a lower AOA for the down-going ones.
An example of a lever design is shown in Fig. 4.
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 91
Fig. 7. Laddermill shapes for di!erent cable speeds.
4.4. Comparison between the three simulation models
For comparison reasons three laddermill types were chosen, a small-scale type A, a medium-
scale type B and a large-scale type C. A simple wind pro"le has been used, that is similar to the
average wind pro"le as measured by KNMI [6]:
<
`'"
"7.2#0.0016 (h/500) (m/s)
for h'500 (m) and
<
`'"
"8 (h/500)"`(m/s) (21)
for 0(h(500 (m).
For all cases the lift and drag coe$cients were chosen as
C
*
"1.5 for the up-goingwings andC
*
"1.3 AOA/12 for the down-goingwings
C
"
"0.2#0.16 (AOA/12)`, (22)
where AOA is the angle of attack in degrees.
The determination of the AOA for the down-going wings is di!erent for the three simulations.
The O-Mill simulator determines an AOA for each wing that results in a force aligned with the line
92 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
Fig. 8. The average wind speed is shown as well as the dynamic pressure, being half the density times the wind speed
squared. Also the altitude integrated dynamic pressure is shown, which is of relevance for the total energy production
(see (9)).
connecting the top wing and ground station. The Delft University of Technology simulator sets all
down-going wings at the same AOA, where the value is determined as minimum for providing
su$cient lift to carry the weight of wings and cable. The ECNsimulator uses the principle shown in
Fig. 4, i.e. a lever being pushed by the cable provides the di!erent AOA. The results of the three
di!erent simulators for the three case types A, B and C are presented in Table 1. Note that the
numbers used for surface area and weight in case C are not necessarily corresponding to existing
structures. Type C was chosen as an extreme case for the calculations.
From Table 1 it can be concluded that the three simulator models show very similar results for
the power production as well as for the cable speed at which this production takes place. Also the
rough estimated values using (12) are in general agreement.
5. Wind statistics
The KNMI, Dutch Meteorological Institute, has made available the wind measurements that
are made by weather balloon sondes, which have been launched during the period 1951}1980
(noon and midnight) [7]. The launch site was De Bilt, in the center of the Netherlands. The
winds at lower altitudes, i.e. below 500m, are therefore in#uenced by the roughness of the terrain.
The upper winds are very much the same as would be found at other less rough places such as along
the coast. The average wind speed and corresponding aerodynamic pressure is shown in Fig. 8.
As the power of the Laddermill is given by (9), it seems an advantage of the concept that
the aerodynamic pressure is climbing fast till 100 m, but then stays within a limited range of
60}130Pa.
In Fig. 9 it is clearly shown that the average power density increases drastically with altitude. At
1000 m the power per m` is 6 times higher than at 100 m, the latter being the maximum practical
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 93
Fig. 9. Power and power averaged over altitude. A drastic increase of the energy density is shown as function of altitude.
tower height of a windmill. At 5000m this ratio has become 17, and at 10,000 m there is 30 times
more power per m` than at the 100 m reference.
One could say that the airspace is in a true sense a huge energy resource. The averaged power
density in the troposphere over time and altitude is 2.5 kW/m`. This leads to the conclusion that
above each 1 km wide area up to the tropopause a total average wind power of 25 GW is blowing,
which equals 1.7 times the total Dutch electrical power needs.
6. Operation model calculation
6.1. Model
The Pascal programme LADDER [10] has been included in an operation simulator. The output
gives the power production for the actual wind pro"les, while adapting each time the laddermill.
The input wind altitude pro"les for the calculation are taken from the actual measured wind
pro"les data base at sequential days.
Further inputs are
E Wing parameters: surface, weight, aspect ratio, lift and drag coe$cients,
E Cable parameters: diameter, strength, safety factor, density, and maximum length.
The boundary conditions are then
E Maximum dynamic pressure q
}
max.
E Maximum force in the cable F
}
max.
E Minimum distance and maximum number of wings.
E Maximum cable length.
94 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
6.2. Operation strategy
The early assessment of cost demonstrates that the costs of the wings give a signi"cant
contribution to the total cost. It is therefore required to use the wings in the optimal sense (higher
q
}
max will lead to higher cost and also to higher mass, which in turn leads to larger power loss).
Wings should therefore be used in air with the maximum allowable aerodynamic pressure for
which they are built. This is obtained by the following operation strategy:
E First the altitude is determined at which q
}
max is reached. This gives the maximum allowable
altitude of the translator.
E Then a number of wings is adjusted till the maximum force F
}
max is reached.
Adaptation is assumed for each measured wind altitude pro"le (noon and midnight). As a full
rotation will take typically an hour, the laddermill adaptation is assumed to take place fast
compared to the 12 h interval between measurements.
6.3. Cost model
A simple cost model has been applied, where interest rate, in#ation, maintenance and pro"ts are
all included in the number of years over which the cost of investment has been completely
depreciated. The relevant period for the translator is chosen as 4 yr, while for the ground station
and generator 10 yr is assumed.
According to ECN [14], light structure wings cost Fl 80.-/kg. This cost should in fact depend on
the q
}
max and might be not realistic for large structures, i.e. wing areas of 100 m` and more.
However, this is not yet included in the model. The q
}
max is therefore chosen to be rather benign,
i.e. 250 Pa. The wings are assumed to have a lifetime of 4 yr; thus, the cost per year is Fl 20.-/kg.
Cables made of high-performance "bres with diameters up to 30 mm are standard and can be
delivered for Fl 100.-/kg [15].
The lifetime of the cable is also assumed to be 4 yr; thus, the cost per year is Fl 25.-/kg.
For the ground station, the costs of two elements have been considered, namely the overall
storage and logistics capability at Fl 500.-/m` and the generator and gear mechanisms at
130 kFl/kW#200kFl [4].
A typical result is shown in Table 2. The low "gure of 4 cent/kWh is only a rough estimate
(1 US$"2.2 Fl). Mass production of wings could lower this cost, while advanced control require-
ments and mechanisms could increase the cost.
7. Discussion
For the actual realisation of the laddermill, a substantial design e!ort has to take place. The
laddermill is a completely novel concept that covers a large variety of multidisciplinary aspects.
Some elements are `historicala, i.e. the cable connections and slow motion combined with large
forces, whereas other elements need advanced technologies such as very light weight structures and
advanced control systems.
Most critical areas are the stability of the translator, the safety and the ground station logistics
and mechanisms and the low-speed-high-force mechanical to electrical energy conversion.
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 95
Overall stability can be obtained by using advanced control techniques and using electronic
elements such as neural networks, attitude and position determination with GPS and the so-called
`now-casta [16]. `Now-casta is wind predictions in the time frame of typically 10 min}2 hr. This
period covers the time in which the laddermill can be fully adjusted to the expected weather
conditions.
Ten students of the Delft University of Technology have performed a design synthesis project
during 10 weeks in 1998. A 70 MW laddermill was designed and speci"c solutions to the wing
attitude control were developed [17]. The enthusiasm of the students involved has led to the
formation of a student association called: The Laddermill Student Society Millennium [18].
During an `Intenda project of the Delft University of Technology and the Michigan State
University [19] students have designed an elegant wing-to-cable connection and cable-to-cable
connection. This cable-to-cable connection represents an overhead of only a few meters, while
maintaining 90% of the strength.
In the near future some preliminary demonstrations are expected, both with stationary cable
loop and a moving one. The use of a barge as ground station will facilitate initial tests because of its
ability to adapt to variations of the translator forces in value and direction.
Some exposure to the general public has been given via the media and lectures using animations.
A primary reaction of pride and acceptance is given. One perceives the laddermill as an elegant
graceful motion of slow moving wings without noise and threat. Also a concern over dropping of
the wings when the wind would stall was expressed. This concern could, however, be easily resolved
by comparing with kites that can safely be retrieved by pulling them in slowly.
The `wind energy communitya has only been scarcely informed about the laddermill [20] until
now. The attention is rather low as the present focus is on realising large parks (near o!shore in
particular) of wind turbines. The presented laddermill concept for 10 km high self-supporting
system is considered a rather academic option which allows for a `wait and seea attitude for the
time being.
The next plans call for a "rst phase of realising a demonstrator, followed by a second phase in
which a test model will be designed and built. This test model is intended to be made such that it is
capable of performing the necessary research and tests to study all the relevant aspects of a future
production model. A third phase will be devoted to the design and construction of a prototype.
This prototype will be operational and produce actual electrical energy.
The three phases are scheduled to cover some 5}7 yr.
The initial demonstration plans to make use of remotely (radio) controlled wings, by which
stability can be assured and the control levels and gains are studied. In this way it is assumed that
the demonstration could take place in the near future (1 yr).
8. Conclusion
The laddermill concept is a totally new concept that allows exploiting the unequalled durable
energy resource of the wind in the troposphere. Physical limitations are shown, indicating
maximum power production and optimal cable speed. Some design considerations are given and
a particular operation simulation is presented using actual Dutch wind measurements over a 20 yr
long period of time. An example of a rather small laddermill is included, giving indications of
96 W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97
potentially very low cost per kWh. Public acceptance seems to be existing. The obvious interfer-
ence with aeroplanes can be secured by the existing separation techniques using GPS and local
communication to the aeroplanes. A clear development plan exists that may lead to a "rst
production capability within 5}7 yr.
References
[1] Potma CS, Veldhuis LLM. Stability Analysis Laddermill Wing. DUT 1998 contract O-Mill BV.
[2] van der Sluis L. Private communication. Delft University of Technology, 1998.
[3] van der Wer! K. Private. communication. Delft University of Technology, 1998.
[4] Jacobs M. Creep of gel-spun polyethylene "bres. Ph.D. thesis, Technical University Eindhoven, 1999.
[5] Melkert JA. Master thesis, 1992. Delft University of Technology.
[6] Kleintank A. Klimatologische Dienstverlening KNMI De Bilt. 1997.
[7] Molly JP. Mueller Karlsruhe. 1978.
[8] Danish Energy Agency. 600 kW at Schiphol www.windpower.dk/tour/wres/pow/index.htm
[9] O-Mill BV Laddermill development comp. Boekenroodeweg 45, 2111HK Aerdenhout, Netherlands.
[10] Ockels WJ. Program `LADDERa. 1996.
[11] Meijaard JP, Schab AL. Programme for simulation of the dynamic behaviour of a laddermill and output examples.
TU Delft LTM-1197, 1999 contract O-Mill BV.
[12] van Engelen TG, Snel H. Computer programme for production and shape of laddermills. ECN-CX-98.078, contract
O-Mill BV.
[13] Meijaard JP, Ockels WJ, Swab AL. Modelling of the dynamic behaviour of the laddermill. Proceedings of the Third
International Symposium Cable Dynamics. Tronheim, 1999, p. 229.
[14] Bulder BH. Cost of energy analysis. ECN-CX-98. Draft.
[15] Jacobs M. Dyneema high performance "bres. DSM 1998.
[16] Ligthart L. Private communication. Delft University of Technology.
[17] Balkanyi S. et al. Vertical motion windmill. Delft University of Technology, June 1998.
[18] LSS Laddermill Student Society Millennium. mathieu.de.rooij@excite.com
[19] van der Wer! K. Delft University of Technology and Michigan State University `INTENDa project.
[20] Ockels WJ, van Grol HJ. Laddermill, a novel concept to exploit wind energy in the airspace. Proceedings of the
1999 European Wind Energy Conference. Nice, 1999, p. 353.
W.J. Ockels / Aircraft Design 4 (2001) 81}97 97