UK invest in Airborne Wind Energy research

Bill Gates called it a ‘potential magical solution’ to the world’s energy problem and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are sufficiently interested that they have awarded the University of Bristol a £375,000 grant to conduct research into the field of Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES).

The University’s Lecturer in Flight Dynamics and Control, Dr Duc H. Nguyen, explained the interest: ‘Airborne wind energy has enormous potential and is anticipated to generate €70 billion per year worth of electricity by 2050.’

AWE systems are made up of a kite, a tether and ground station with a generator, as explained in the Kitemill video above.

The kite can exploit the much higher and much more consistent wind speeds that exist way above the reach of wind turbines. At 500m the wind conditions are of the kind that offshore pylons were created to exploit. Global Wind Atlas 

Last month Germany chose to include the technology in the German Renewable Energy Act (aka: EEG), which includes provisions for AWE-specific tariffs.

Johannes Peschel, CEO of Kitepower explained the significance of this: ‘This is a historic moment for the AWE industry and for sustainable energy as a whole. Germany’s decision to include AWE in its renewable energy framework not only validates our technology but also paves the way for accelerated adoption across Germany, Europe and beyond.’

These include enhanced access to financing, heightened international visibility, improved research and development conditions, regulatory adaptations, and the strengthening of European industrial leadership in renewable energy innovation.

Kitepower pointed out that the benefits of this will include ‘improved research and development conditions’, which brings us back to Bristol.

Dr Nguyen and his collaborators hope to improve the efficiency and safety of AWE systems, an important step in propelling the concept towards being commercially viable.

He explains: ‘It is still an emerging technology. In many cases, a trade-off has been made: new designs have been rapidly deployed for test flights before their flying characteristics are fully understood. This has prevented many AWES prototypes from achieving full capacity in operation, leading to early termination of the programme and hindering commercialisation.’

The project will use of bifurcation and continuation methods – a tool for the analysis of stability problems in aircraft flight dynamics – to achieve, in the Doctor’s words: ‘significant cost savings and improved performance that will ultimately bring this technology closer to commercialisation.’

The project will also benefit from collaborations with two leading players in the sector, Norwegian startup Kitemill and University Carlos the III of Madrid.

Thomas Hårklau, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kitemill, said: ‘The initiation and successful funding of this AWES project is an important development in the renewable energy sector. AWES technology, with its exceptional material efficiency and higher energy yields, has the potential to become a dominant force in the energy industry.’

Photo: Kitemill

Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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