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.
Wake effect is a major factor for area usage
If you find the robust conceptual support of Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) compelling, there's an abundance of material to explore. AWE is backed enthusiastically by academia, with new studies and insights being published regularly. Certain studies are especially significant for conceptual evaluation.
One notable publication from 2022 is an article by Thomas Haas on wake effect studies, which supports the assertion that AWE could achieve a higher power density than traditional wind energy technology. Power density is limited by the wake, which is the effect of a system influencing the air stream of other downwind systems.
Haas's study found that with a power density of 10 MW/km2, the final system row would experience wake-induced losses of 15%. The average losses between the first and last rows would be less than 15%. This conclusion suggests a greater capacity density than traditional wind energy methods.
Kitemill proposes that kites could operate with intersecting flight paths, effectively removing the 10 MW/km2 practical limit. Detailed aerodynamic designs already indicate that induction is less for AWE than for traditional wind turbines, with numbers showing 5% versus the typical 30% for conventional wind energy systems. Moreover, wake is reduced and its recovery should be faster, even compared to the Haas study.
However, as Haas concluded, more research is needed in this area. The general assumption is that AWE, utilizing a larger volume for the same installed ground capacity, should theoretically experience reduced wake limitations, or allow for a higher power density.
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: