Many reports and articles issued lately have presented the Airborne Wind Energy concept as viable solution for the net zero society. To ensure you do not miss the main ones, we have provided a summary.
In the “NetZero by 2050 – a roadmap for the global energy sector” issued in 2021 the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that “Almost 50% of the emission reductions needed in 2050 in the NetZero Emission scenario depend on technologies that are at the prototype or demonstration stage, i.e. are not yet available on the market (see Chapter 4)”.
The IEA follows up this statement and AWE is now a separate work task,see wind task 48. https://iea-wind.org/task48/
Latest study backed by the AWE OEMs
BVG Associates launched a report about Airborne Wind Energy (AWE)presenting a clear policy for what it takes to enable AWE as a considerable utility scale energy production technology.
United Nations present Airborne Wind Energy
Earlier in 2022, United Nations report on Emerging Climate Technologies devoted the first whole chapter to AWE. The report focused on AWEs potential in the weak grid/off-grid market. Importantly, pointing out that AWE companies could benefit from more funding to proceed with demonstration and recommended public support: https://unfccc.int/ttclear/tec/energysupplysector.html (see nice picture from Kitemill’s test site).
AWE significant to make floating wind cost efficient
In 2019, the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) launched a report on wind power technologies. This report ranged Airborne Wind Energy as the 3rd most important invention to make floating offshore wind financially viable: https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2019/Oct/IRENA_Future_of_wind_2019.pdf?rev=c324896ba0f74c99a0cde784f3a36dff . It did not state why, but a significant challenge for floating offshore wind is the high material usage and AWE is expected to save even more of the materials compared to traditional floating offshore wind turbines. Furthermore, the kites might be able to fly back to shore for inspection and maintenance.
Airborne Wind Europe and the IEA wind task 48 administration contributed to AWE's section in a IRENA report published in 2021: https://www.irena.org/publications/2021/Jul/Offshore-Renewables-An-Action-Agenda-for-Deployment
AWE the most cost-efficient energy technology onshore
Also in 2019 an assessment was done be BVG Associates for Kite Power Systems and later acquired by Kitemill. The report was based on KPSs 500kW system which corresponds with Kitemill’s KM3 model. The study was based on numbers corresponding with Kitemill’s more detailed study of material driven cost estimate for large volume supplied: https://kitemillwebstorage.blob.core.windows.net/publicdata/BVGA-22503-Report-r2.pdf
The LCoE input in this study also correlates with numbers assessed in a Due Diligence performed by Everoze in 2022.
EU study resulted calls being adapted to AWE
The EU study on AWE launched in 2016 paved the way for AWE in several EUcalls. Calls were adapted to fit AWE. This contributed to AWE companies like Kitemill, achieving a high success rate in EU applications: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/a874f843-c137-11e8-9893-01aa75ed71a1/language-en
NREL and US Energy Department follows up
In 2021 the US Congress asked the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)to make a study about AWE. The AWE industry, including Kitemill, participated with input for this study. Short time after this was published, the US Energy Department launched their report on AWE. We believe these studies represent an excellent development on AWE in the US and hope that more incentives will be made available for AWE in the US.
Article suggest an even higher land-use advantage than Kitemill states
If the strong concept support of AWE mentioned above intrigue your interest, there are tons more to read about AWE. After all, AWE is strongly backed by the academia. New studies and more knowledge of AWE are published continuously. Some studies are significant for the concept evaluation. Most interesting publications to read in 2022 might be an article about the wake effect studies by Thomas Haas, backing up the claim that AWE will be a denser energy production technology allowing a power density of several times to what’s possible for conventional wind. Power density is limed by wake. Wake is when system influence the air stream to the other systems located downwind. The study simulates 28 MW/km2 density. The results were that the last row of system will have losses 15% caused by wake, meaning that the average will be less than 15 %. In average conventional wind power, which have reached its optimum power density of 4 MW/km2, faces average wake losses of 10 %.
Such high density is incredible result, but it represents an optimum and brings along a few technical challenges. Therefore, Kitemill is targeting 15MW/km2 as a more practical achievable power density. Anticipating a power factor of 60% will give around 72 MWh/km2 which is more than 2 x the energy density of solar and 5 x conventional wind.
IEAs NZE scenario anticipate 400 GW of wind power to be built yearly from 2030. 80 % of this will be onshore. This requires 80 000 km2 (size if Iceland) additions annually and will accumulate to 2,6 million km2 by 2050 (size of Greenland).
What about materials?
Luuk van Hagen’s master thesis was published in June 2022, and Stefan Wilhelm’ master thesis from 2015, are both Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of AWE systems. Both studies show significant material advantage compared to conventional wind turbines. Wilhelm’s concludes on a reduction of 77 % of materials over life cycle compared to a conventional wind turbine. Kitemill sees even a higher material saving compared to the systems used as basis of the studies. Kitemill uses a more efficient VTOL launch and landing solution, which reduces the need for concrete and steel in the foundation and the ground station. This opportunity is also mentioned in both studies.
IEAs NZE scenario for conventional wind will lead to annual material usage of 820 million tonnes globally. This includes steel equal to 10 % of the global annual steel consumption. With AWE, the same energy output can be achieved with only 8 % of the materials.
Luuk van Haag's publications:
Stephan Wilhelms publication: