THREE of the biggest names in the energy industry, led by Royal Dutch Shell, have backed a business that generates electricity from flying kites.

Kite Power Systems (KPS) will use the £5 million investment from Shell, E.ON, and Schlumberger to establish a research and test facility on the Ministry of Defence’s West Freugh site near Stranraer, after it received the world’s first planning consent for such a site in October.

The firm, which was established in 2011, is one of several start-ups racing to take leadership of a sector that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said could be the “magic solution” for renewable energy.

The technology uses kites tethered to generators on the ground to capture and store energy, making it cheaper to deploy and operate than conventional wind turbines.

Internet giant Google has also backed the technology, investing $15 million in US start-up Makani Power through its Google X research and development (R&D) arm.

Shell’s investment in KPS comes through its venture capital arm Shell Technology Ventures, which will take a stake in the company, which has changed its name from Kite Power Solutions.

German energy group E.ON and US-listed Schlumberger, the biggest oil services company in the world, also take stakes in the company, highlighting the scale to which energy firms believe kite-generated power has a future.

Paul Jones, chief financial officer of KPS, said: “The new investment from three major international businesses is an endorsement of the R&D work that the KPS team has carried out and demonstrates support for our technology and our business.”

He added that the backing of these companies will accelerate the company’s commercial development plans towards deploying “lower cost, deep-water offshore wind energy on a global scale”.

KPS has invested more than £3m in the development of its technology, with financial support coming from the UK Government, through the department of energy and climate change’s (DECC) energy entrepreneurs fund, Innovate UK and private investors

Shell, through its GameChanger programme has supported KPS since 2012 and Geert van de Wouw, managing director of STV, said he considered the company’s wind technology a good fit for Shell.

“[KPS] is on the right trajectory towards commercialisation,” he said. “I have been impressed by KPS’s ability to continuously meet the challenging milestones Shell has set them during this period.

“Over time, KPS has convinced me that its high altitude kite power solution has disruptive potential for the wind industry.”

Frank Meyer, senior vice president business to consumer and innovation at E.ON said: “The approach of Kite Power Systems has the potential to become a game changer for wind energy.”

KPS believes it can reduce the capital expenditure of conventional offshore turbines by as much as 50 per cent, meaning kite power generation would not need government subsidies and could be deployed offshore and onshore.

The company has secured planning consent to deploy a 500 kilowatt power system at West Freugh next year.

Ultimately, KPS plans to develop a three megawatt onshore system at West Freugh and a similar sized system offshore.