MANTA: Reliable and Safe Kite Energy System

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Menlo Park, California
Project Term:
09/09/2021 - 09/08/2024

Critical Need:

Significant technical and environmental barriers make current Hydrokinetic Turbines (HKT) systems prohibitively expensive. Hydrokinetic energy systems’ low technical readiness calls for a system-level approach that will include hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, control systems, power electronics, grid connections, and performance optimization, while minimizing potential negative environmental effects and maximizing system reliability. The challenging, multi-disciplinary nature of this design space means many systems haven’t moved beyond the theoretical design phase. Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems (SHARKS) aims to use control co-design (CCD), co-design (CD), and designing for operation and maintenance (DFO) methodologies to develop radically new HKTs for tidal and riverine applications that drastically reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE). This program aims to address industry-wide limitations to provide economical hydrokinetic power at micro-grid and utility scale.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Underwater kite systems offer the promise of energy capture from tidal power with minimal structural costs. Current approaches are not scaled for small communities, however. SRI International will team with the University of California at Berkeley, which has facilities for hydrodynamic testing and experience with environmental issues and community engagement, to realize a system that is appropriate for small communities. SRI’s proposed Manta kite system is simple and based on the payout and reel-in pumping action of a kite. A compact, low-cost, novel transmission will enable conversion of the pumping action to the high-speed rotary motion needed for cost effective power production. A small pump will allow kites to sink in the event of a storm, passage of a large vessel, or wildlife migration. In addition, the relatively small and slow-moving lightweight composite foam structure will be resilient, lower cost, and safer for wildlife than turbine systems. The Manta kite can produce power with minimal structure and installation costs, achieving a levelized cost of energy four times less than that of rotary turbines. The Manta kite system will support remote microgrids and is scalable for larger systems.

Potential Impact:

Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable energy source that presents unique opportunities and benefits.


Diverse renewable energy resources can boost grid resiliency and reduce infrastructure vulnerabilities.


HKTs, used to capture energy from tides, rivers, canals, and ocean currents, optimize a clean, renewable power source that could help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


Hydrokinetic energy has applications beyond solely providing power to electrical grids. It is ideally suited to the emerging technologies and markets built upon ocean- and riverine-based infrastructure, including climatological observation, aquaculture, desalination, ocean floor and seawater mining, disaster recovery, powering isolated communities, and autonomous underwater vehicle support.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Mario Garcia-Sanz
Project Contact:
Mr. Roy Kornbluh
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