Less and Less Resources Deployed
Taking less material to produce more energy.
Enter Airborne Wind Energy
Imagine a source of renewable energy that utilises 90% less material, easier to setup, maintain and operate and able to generate the same if not an even greater output as any other non-conventional source of energy.. how? by tapping into higher altitudes, enter airborne wind energy!
“AWES (Airborne Wind Energy Systems) solutions do not use a tower but a drone or a flying wing tethered to the ground. The tether enables them to access stronger and more persistent winds at significantly higher altitudes as compared to traditional tower-based wind mills,” says Dr Roland Schmehl, Co-founder of Kitepower B.V. and Associate Professor at the Aerospace Engineering faculty of Delft University of Technology. Since early 2018, Kitepower is able to fully operate its system with only two engineers supervising the flight site. Efforts by the Kitepower engineering team are recently being carried on towards a fully unmanned automatic operation of the 100kW system deployed at the aerodrome of Valkenburg, the airfield which is hosting Kitepower’s advancements since day one, with the aim to achieve completely unmanned applications by the end of the year.
“Small scale systems generating power between 20 and 100 kilowatts can be transported by truck and can be installed in relatively shorter span of time as we do not need a foundation nor the need to erect a tower” adds Dr Schmehl.
Airborne Wind Energy Market Pros
While the benefits of renewable energy are vast, achieving scalable production ready systems and negotiating regulatory hurdles can present challenges, as they do with any emerging technology. This is why a concept like airborne wind energy is being sized up. Apart from engineering challenges, the AWES will also have to battle through a host of business hurdles, which demand robust power generation capabilities and low maintenance costs to rationalise the capital investments required for its deployment.
“Most of the demonstrated AWES projects have an operational time frame of not more than one day and our plan is to boost this to months and years. We also need to make AWES more reliable apart from addressing legislative challenges like using airspace together with aircraft,” comments Dr Schmehl. Kitepower is planning to beat the record for continuous electricity generation by flying 24/7 for a week during the upcoming winter.
With developing economies including China, India, Brazil registering a ballooning economic and industrial growth, the demand for unconventional and clean sources of energy is set to rise significantly in the coming years, particularly with the alarming levels of pollution in such regions. The benefits surely make AWES a great source of power generation it is now our responsibility to take advantage of it.