Introductory Note

AIRBORNE WIND ENERGY

BACKGROUND

Airborne wind energy (AWE) has the potential to give access to stronger and more stable high-altitude wind resources, including in remote areas and floating offshore, and thus play an important part in the future energy mix. It also reduces material consumption which leads – in combination with a higher capacity factor – to potentially very low LCOEs and lower carbon and environmental impacts. Furthermore, it may be modified to provide propulsion and power for the maritime shipping sector [1].

There are currently over 60 organisations working on AWE, thereof about half from industry developing AWE systems and half from academia and government research (see Figure 1 in the annex).

AWE is progressing towards commercial demonstration. A recent road mapping exercise among Airborne Wind Europe members concluded that AWE system deployment can be expected to be in the Gigawatt-range by 2030. By 2050 several hundreds of Gigawatts will be potentially installed providing a significant share of the power supply.

However, there are various questions that need to be answered before it achieves widespread commercial adoption. The challenges concern safety standards and technical guidelines, resource and deployment potentials, markets, engineering issues, environmental impacts and social acceptance, regulatory as well as financial and policy challenges.

The TEM has been initially proposed by the University of Stuttgart (Germany), and is supported among others by

  • IFP Energies Nouvelles (France),
  • Kyushu University (Japan)
  • NC State University (US)
  • NREL (US),
  • PtJ / BMWi (Germany),
  • SEAI (Ireland),
  • TU Delft (Netherlands),
  • Wind Energy Research Cluster (Germany)
  • and the leading AWE companies which are members of Airborne Wind Europe.

The TEM is intended as a virtual online meeting on 23-24 September. It is the clear intention to establish a specific Task on AWE within the IEA Wind TCP.

ADDED VALUE OF COLLABORATION

An IEA Task on AWE will allow tackling various of the specific challenges on a global level by addressing and including stakeholders who are not primarily AWE developers, i.e. policy makers, authorities, regulators and experts.

So far, the AWE community has been consisting mainly of developers and research institutions which convene every two years at the AWE Conferences (the last one took place in October 2019 in Glasgow). The sector association AWEurope has started about two years ago with collaborative activities among its members (working groups on safety, sector roadmap and recently on environmental and social impacts) but – even though being also open to non-European members – its main focus has been on Europe. Recently the sector has also been present at the WindEnergy Hamburg fair and conference and, within the European Academy of Wind Energy network (eawe), a technical Committee on AWE has been set up in 2019 which convenes about twice a year.

An IEA Task on AWE would be highly beneficial in order to open the scope of collaboration to the whole world; it will thus foster a truly international exchange of expertise, produce and gather new data and information, allow for joint learning, as well as accelerate the development of AWE technology and thus its impact on the international energy sector. AWE stakeholders will be able benefit from the experience and established networks within IEA Wind while also providing new insights and technological expertise to them.

OBJECTIVES

The focus of the TEM is to prepare the activities of a future Task on AWE and the creation of a global AWE community to which R&D groups and other stakeholders, including members from other tasks (e.g. Task 25 System integration, Task 26 Cost of Wind, Task 28 Social, Acceptance, Task 41 Distributed Wind, etc), can contribute to with the aim to achieve a breakthrough of this technology. The idea is to discuss the research topics below plus any other ideas brought up by participants, prioritize them and then – once the AWE Task has been established – start working on them in dedicated Working Groups within the Task (similar to the way Task 32 is organized).

Suggested topics include:

Feasibility and technology assessment:

  1. State of AWE technology: Where do we stand? What are the key challenges and barriers? What is the recent progress?
  2. Compiling Frequently Asked Questions: How to find answers on (technical) FAQs on AWE? E.g.: Is automated take-off and landing for all technologies solved? What is the longevity of components like tethers, drums, connection pieces, kites, etc. under environmental conditions (sea water, sunlight, snow, ice, lightning, …)?
  3. Safety: Which safety aspects should be standardized in design, operation and maintenance?
  4. Design tools: Which sector-wide design tools could be developed together to allow benchmarking and reference standards, addressing engineering and other challenges and leveraging the community’s strengths and diversity, e.g. on dynamic behaviours and power curves, or developing an open-source kite simulator (like NREL’s FAST turbine simulator)?

Assessment of potentials:

  1. Scenarios for 2030 to 2050: Which will be AWE sector’s contribution to global Energy supply and CO2 reduction (also by using less material)? What is the space availability onshore and offshore considering potential restrictions (e.g. distances to settlements, wind resource availability, other uses like air traffic)? Which will be its role in each of the continents (Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania)?
  2. Viability and efficiency: How will the power curves look like? What can be the energy yield per km2 considering e.g. distances between kites and wake effects? How long will kites really be able to fly, and which capacity factors can they realistically achieve? What is the overall efficiency of the entire cycle and extended periods of time including maintenance intervals? What is the LCOE potential?

Policy and Regulation:

  1. Policies for AWE: Will AWE require policy support? If yes, what would be appropriate, effective and efficient schemes? What can be learned from other RE technologies?
  2. Airspace Regulation: How to harmonize regulatory approaches for AWE in order to avoid that countries start developing own procedures?
  3. Environmental and social impacts: How to best determine the impact on fauna, measure noise and investigate visual impacts? How to measure and increase social acceptance?

SPECIFIC OUTCOMES

The outcomes of the meeting include:

  • Minutes of the meeting capturing the key discussion points
  • Task proposal including preliminary list of proposed activities for submission to IEA Executive Committee
  • Presentations from the participants
  • One pager with key results of the meeting that can be published on the websites of IEA Wind and other participating organisations (see next section).

INTENDED PARTICIPATION

The targeted audience includes organisations from all around the world that are specialized in AWE, have worked on AWE or have shown interest, see also Figure 1 in the Annex below. The following is an initial list which – in the likely case of a virtual event (see below) – will be extended to all the organisations and countries shown in Figure 1 as well as others:

  • AWE developers and suppliers: Ampyx Power (NL), Enerkite (DE), Kitemill (NO), Kitepower (NL), KiteSwarms (UK), Skypull (IT), Skysails Power (DE), Twingtec (CH), Windlift (US)
  • Wind energy developers and manufacturers: GE, Siemens Gamesa, Vestas.
  • Wind park owners and operators, utilities: PG&E California, RWE, Engie, Vattenfall, Shell, Equinor
  • Universities / research institutions: NREL, Kyushu University, NC State University, TU Delft, Politecnico Milano, University of Freiburg, University of Stuttgart, ETH Zürich, Technical University of Munich, Fraunhofer IWES, Leibniz University of Hannover, JRC, DLR, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
  • Policy makers: Ministries for R&D, energy, economy and/or environment in all IEA Wind countries, European Commission
  • Public authorities: FAA US, EASA, JARUS, Swiss FOCA, other National Aviation Authorities

TENTATIVE PROGRAM

The TEM is being planned for 23-24 September 2020. The initial idea was to hold the meeting back-to-back with Wind Energy Hamburg conference and fair, but as this event has been postponed to December 2020 an online meeting on 23-24 September is proposed (4 hours each day).

  • Introduction [AWEurope, IEA Task 11]
  • Current state the AWE sector: Short presentation for newcomers
  • Discussion of topics [based on the list above; depending on the number of topics some 30 min. per topic] with contributions from around the globe
    • Short presentation and then Q&A, discussion
  1. Scenarios for 2030 to 2050
  2. Resource Potential: Wind Study and Power Curves
  3. Safety aspects
  4. Airspace Regulation
  5. Environmental and social impacts
  6. AWE-specific support policies
  7. Need for common design tools
  • Prioritization exercise of the participants: Which would be topics to be taken up by Working Groups within the Task?
    • Using two breakout sessions so that people can provide feedback and change groups for the second round. Defining potential points of collaboration with other IEA Wind tasks (e.g. Task 25 System integration, Task 26 Cost of Wind, Task 28 Social, Acceptance, Task 41 Distributed Wind, etc).
    • Discussion and consensus among participants
    • Noting potential participants for each thematic area
  • Other organizational topics to prepare the AWE Task
    • AWEurope as potential Operating Agent
    • Set up of an Advisory Board
    • Potentially defining Working Group Leaders
    • Timelines
    • Next steps

Figure 1: Organisations working on AWES. Source: R. Schmehl, TU Delft 2020