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Commercial introduction of the first Airborne Wind Energy system: Renewable energy at costs below fully depreciated coal fired power plants

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - AMPYXAP3 (Commercial introduction of the first Airborne Wind Energy system: Renewable energy at costs below fully depreciated coal fired power plants)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2019-09-30

The global energy demand is still increasing and predictions for the foreseeable future do not indicate a reduction. At the same time the effects of climate change due to the use of fossil fuels become more and more apparent. The implementation of renewable energy such as sun light, wind and hydro power as energy source for fueling the global economy have taken a firm position in the energy mix. Although these renewable energy sources currently provide only a fraction of the total global energy consumption, their importance towards the future is expected to keep growing significantly with the clear ambition of most industrial governments to provide all required energy. Next to the obvious problems of cost and intermittency (no sun at night, not always wind), maximization of land/sea surface area available for energy production pose additional constraints in the transitioning towards a 100% renewable energy world.
Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) is an innovative wind energy technology with the potential to be cost competitive to conventional wind energy turbines. Because AWE operate at higher altitudes than conventional wind turbines, these innovative systems have the potential to unlock additional land and sea area currently not viable for energy production. Due to the higher altitude at which AWE systems operate they allow utilization of wind resources that are not available for conventional wind turbines. There is currently no consensus on the benefit and feasibility of implementing AWE systems in the energy infrastructure but sufficient potential has been identified by independent assessment to continue development of this technology. The objectives of the AMPYXAP3 project are to produce a fully functional and operational AWE system at relevant and convincing scale to substantiate commercial interest and prove the benefits of introducing AWE as an energy technology.
During the AMPYXAP3 project we have defined the customer and environmental requirements that are essential to obtain a commercially viable AWE system. Based on these inputs we have identified that development of design and manufacturing standards for this technology are essential both for compliance to general safety considerations but also for commercial viability of such a new and innovative technology. Ampyx Power has closely collaborated with aviation safety agencies on European and national level to identify relevant standards. Based on these guidelines, requirements and standards, Ampyx Power has designed and is manufacturing a 12 meter span, 150 kW fully operational and autonomous Airborne Wind Energy system in the AMPYXAP3 project. Although the project could not be completed in time, Ampyx Power is committed to finish construction and operational demonstration. Main results at this point in time are the production of two AWE airframes with electronic hardware, software and control system. These systems will be further integrated and tested for energy production, performance and maintenance during 2020 and 2021. During the project Ampyx Power has successfully contracted two industry leading energy utilities that wish to further commercialize the AWE technology concept of Ampyx Power, indicating commercial viability. Results and lessons learned during the AMPYXAP3 project were published in international peer reviewed journals and Ampyx Power is involved in training 14 PhD students to further disseminate the obtained knowledge. In addition, we have presented our results at more than 15 conferences, participated in popular science television shows and magazines, published in a number of national newspapers and were mentioned in an article on AWE in The Economist. An AWE market readiness study was commissioned by the European Committee that confirms the potential of the technology and the crucial role of the AMPYXAP3 project as next step towards commercialization.
The development of a large scale AWE system is in itself an effort that takes most design knowledge beyond the state of the art. The combination of high structural loads, robotic robustness of controlling an intrinsically unstable flying system safely, aerodynamic performance at extreme angles of attack close to stall, high tension tethers operated at high speeds over sheaves, high speed winch systems and launching and landing an aircraft on an extreme small footprint push most engineering beyond its standard limits. Novel design tools, software development tools and operational principles were developed by Ampyx Power in order to produce the AP3 system. These innovations have resulted in 2 granted patents and 4 additional patents pending, over 10.000 pages of design trade off and documentation, software development tools beyond the state of the art and not available on the market. The socio-economic impact of the AMPYXAP3 project is difficult to assess at this point in time but it is our firm believe that upon implementation of AWE as a fully developed energy technology will prove to provide an essential addition to the renewable energy landscape by utilizing untapped resources that are not available for any other wind energy technology.
AMPYXAP3 demonstration site visualisation
AMPYXAP3 visualisation