Royal Dutch Shell has teamed up with E.On and Schlumberger to invest in a new form of wind power that uses high-altitude kites to harness energy.

The Anglo-Dutch oil group and its partners will each take a stake in Kite Power Systems (KPS) as the UK start-up races for leadership of a technology that has also attracted interest from Google.

KPS is one of several companies around the world working on ways to capture wind power through airborne kites tethered to the ground. Advocates say this could sharply cut energy costs by dispensing with the expensive towers and blades used in conventional wind power.

The £5 million investment by Shell Technology Ventures (STV), the group’s venture capital arm, and its partners is relatively modest but highlights the growing desire of traditional energy companies to gain a foothold in green technology. E.on of Germany is one of Europe’s largest electricity generators and US-listed Schlumberger is the world’s biggest oilfield services group by market capitalisation.

Geert van de Wouw, managing director of STV, said kite power had the potential to be a “game changer” in renewable energy. “Traditional wind power is less efficient because it requires a lot of steel infrastructure, of which only the tip of the blade is really harnessing energy,” he said.

KPS’s technology, in contrast, uses kites made from lightweight but durable composite materials, each with a surface area of up to 70 squ m, and tethered to a turbine on the ground. Two kites work in tandem, with one rising on the wind to a height of 450m, while the other falls. Their looping motion — at speeds of up to 100mph — rotates the turbine to generate electricity.

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