By 2021, Kitemill's development has reached a new, higher level. Just before the year was over, Kitemill achieved test flights that the company has never seen before, in relation to the length, quality and result of autonomous kite flights over Lista airport.
The status for 2021 after the last test flight was completed is a doubling of flight time and a significant increase in operating time, compared with the results for 2020. The average time for each flight session increased by 200 percent while the operating time increased by 40 percent.
Late in December 2021 came this breakthrough, which heralds continued growth and a faster commercialization of the company in 2022. Kitemill's CEO, Thomas Hårklau says that he is impressed with the efforts of all employees.
-Together, in 2021 we managed to transfer resources from testing to other R&D tasks,the most prominent is scale up of the technology. At the same time as we have reorganized and increased our test operational capability. We have increased the operational availability and we have reduced the use of personnel resources on site. This shows that we are on the right track.
Increased flight time and operation time,despite more challenging weather
A review of Kitemill's flight logs in 2021 shows that the company achieved both increased flight time by 200 percent and increased operating time by 40 percent, comparedto 2020. These are extra positive figures, since there experienced on average more demanding weather conditions for flying with kites in 2021, compared to 2020. Improvements naturally means that we move from worse to better, the system currently operates in a rather narrow weather window.
Development of corecompetence
After the kite Spark # 5 had completed over 50 flights in2021, it was taken in for a planned maintenance audit. A thorough inspection of the kite showed that it had no faults after the flights, and we can increase the maintenance frequency, which documents that Kitemill's kites have become far more robust.
Automatic functionality is the key to further increase in operating time, it is importantto stay focused on this. A result is that the team do not prioritize general power curve performance in this phase. But the increased functionality also affects performance. We now start to see the kite pulls power at the nominal level. This is a result of that the team have focused a lot on structure and load control. These parameters are core competence and the key to future upscaling ofthe technology, says Thomas Hårklau.
Nevertheless, everything was not perfect in 2021. Despite that Kitemill aims to have a robustness level on the flights that should not give more than one loss of kite per year, Kitemill did not reach this goal when we lost several kites this year. This has contributed to us producing, assembling and qualifying more kites than before. By the end of the year, several kites are ready for operation. Operationtime lost as a result of the equipment not being ready has been reducedcompared to 2020. This also implies several important performance indicators that are important for operational feasibility in commercial operations.
Learned from fails
In 2021, Kitemill experienced three kite crashes. All such incidents are the result of us having several errors that coincide. The three incidents have given us improvement in completely different categories: system design, test procedure and improvement in production processes.
-There were too many losses of kites, but the positive thing is that each such incident gives a significantly higher learning. This stage of the development shall have a higher rate of crashes as it helps to push the development faster. That we experience and solve these issues without repeating the same errors shows that we are on the right path, where we are constantly evolving, in the right direction, says Thomas Hårklau.
Renewed EU projectand new owners
A lot of other positive things happened for Kitemill in 2021. Several employees have stepped up and taken more responsibilites. New owners came in with fresh money and not least expertise. The EU funded AWE EIC project is extended pushing the commercial and operational development further, while the EU InnovationFund awarded EUR 3,3 million in project support for the NAWEP pipeline project. This work supported by the EU will continue for several years to come. The company eKite was acquired by Kitemill and it was a success with the implementation of the competent employees from eKite, into the Kitemill team. Energy investor and owner of eKite, Jaap-Jan Ferweda joined as a new Kitemill owner and took over as aboard member for Kitemill in 2021. Kitemill's largest owner and one of the founders of Kitemill, Jon Gjerde was re-elected as chairman of Airborne Wind Europe for the period 2022-2024, a position he has held in the two years the forum has operated.
Strengthened management of the company
In December 2021, Kitemill's management was further strengthened by Asgeir Løno, with a background in the auditing and banking industry, being hired as the new CFO and Alfred van den Brinck from the Netherlands and eKite, being hired as the new CTO. At the same time we thank Lode Carnel off for his excellent contribution in Kitemill for several years as he transfer back the solar industry.
-2021 has been a promising and successful year. In sum, we are therefore well equipped to bringKitemill to a new and higher level in2022. Then we will make an important difference in the work of achieving the important climate goals for our planet,says Thomas Hårklau, who wants everyone who follows with Kitemill, a really happy new year!