12 July, 2023 Member article

Crowdfunding boost for airborne wind energy tech

12 July 2023 – Two airborne wind energy developers have attracted major global investment through crowdfunding initiatives, pushing the sector closer towards commercialisation.

According to ARE Member Airborne Wind Europe (AWE), which said that the latest funding rounds from EnerKite and Kitemill have attracted a combined €2 million ($2.2 million) with more than a thousand investors globally.

AWE secretary general Kristian Petrick said in a statement: “We are thrilled to see two of our leading [airborne wind energy] AWE technology members attracting large levels of international attention…We are inviting other potential investors to join this journey right now as we aim to help Europe and other areas of the world accelerate net-zero electricity production and security of supply.” Petrick added that airborne wind energy, or AWE, is on the verge of becoming a groundbreaking solution, which will unlock large and untapped wind resources at high altitudes.

Kitemill recently unveiled designs for its first commercial-scale KM2 system capable of taking AWE to utility scale.

The technology is set to feature in the €7.5 million ($8.3 million) Norse Airborne Wind Energy Project (NAWEP), backed by the EU Innovation Fund, with a total of 12 KM2 units due for installation.

In April this year, EnerKíte announced a partnership with Volkswagen Group Charging GmbH on a location-flexible and infrastructure-dependent e-charging station as part of the Technohyb project. Power will be supplied from an airborne wind turbine to charge e-cars even in the most remote places.

Market projections

A recent white paper conducted by BVG Associates, on behalf of Airborne Wind Europe, projected the AWE market to reach around $100 billion by 2035–40.

If AWE follows the same trend as the established wind turbine market, BVG estimates the cumulative global deployment of AWE could reach 5GW by 2035 and at least 177GW by 2050.

These growth predictions are based on the benefits offered by the technology compared to traditional wind energy systems. These include:

  • Tapping into high-altitude wind power, which is around 4.5 times stronger than ground-level resources – this high-capacity factor ensures a more consistent and stable energy supply alleviating intermittency issues.
  • Adjusting harvesting altitude and seeking the best available wind resource.
  • Reducing material consumption by up to 90%, for example by replacing wind turbine towers with lightweight tethers. This will decrease costs and carbon footprint.
  • Implementing AWE technology allows for scalable solutions which are suitable for remote locations.

“AWE technology has the potential to drive down the levelised costs of wind energy (LCOE), through a decrease in capital costs (CAPEX) due to low material use, combined with increased capacity factor, easier logistics and quick set-up as well as the high-power density per square-kilometre,” added Petrik.

“The first commercial AWE systems are already competitive in markets with diesel-based power generation, with experts estimating AWE will reach parity with established onshore wind by the mid-2030s.”