Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) offers the potential of accelerating wind energy production. In our new airborne wind white paper for the Airborne Wind Europe, BVG Associates identify the opportunities and issues for AWE technology.
AWE systems use autonomous tethered flying devices to harness energy from the wind. Most devices in development use ground-based powertrains. The generator is run by a tether pulled out by the flying element before a reel-in phase returns the device for another cycle.
AWE concepts can operate at far higher altitude than existing wind generation technologies. By accessing higher, more consistent winds , AWE has higher capacity factors, energy densities and more available sites. Lower material requirements mean that AWE technologies have relatively low carbon footprints. This also means they have lower capital requirements than exiting technology too. A smaller installation footprint also means the AWE has a much higher number of possible sites, as well as much simpler decommissioning. Wind generation in currently off limit sites, such as islands and mountains, could be opened up using AWE.
For AWE to achieve its potential, the paper highlights key factors that need to be addresses. These include the need for coordinated support across technical readiness levels to reduce risk. Support is also needed to identify and lease long term demonstrator sites. Governmental bodies responsible for aviation and defence need to have confidence in the technology to facilitate the development of suitable consenting frameworks. As with most disruptive technology, AWE also needs financial support. This should be in the form of AWE specific funding pots as part of renewable energy generation contract subsidy auctions.
With suitable support, AWE can become a cost-efficient way to expand wind generation to accelerate the global expansion of wind energy.
You can download the white paper here.