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Harnessing the power of high altitude winds - the biggest energy resource yet unexploited by humankind

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Skypull (Harnessing the power of high altitude winds - the biggest energy resource yet unexploited by humankind)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2018-04-30

Description of the action context
Wind is the biggest energy reservoir of our planet. It is estimated that less than 5% of the overall wind energy would be enough to power the entire world. However, to effectively exploit this potential, significant improvement must be made to capture the altitude winds, which are stronger, more abundant and continuous as the winds near the ground. The current wind energy technologies (wind turbines) are unable to do that because of their high-energy cost, limited attainable height and limited deployability due to physical constraints (size and weight).
Skypull is an AWE generation system, which consists of an on-ground generator with a drum winch hosting a light cable (made in UHMPE) connected to an autonomous flying device (drone). The drone transforms the wind power between 200 and 600 m a.g.l. into traction on the cable, forcing the drum winch to rotate and the generator to produce electricity. The duty cycle comprises a generation phase (the flying device increases in altitude) and a recovery phase (losing altitude) and is managed by the automatic control system on board the drone.
The system, which will range between 60 kW and 1 MW power, is lightweight and compact and fully automatic, may work at rated power up to 75% of the year (compared to 25-50% of wind turbines) with an expected LCoE (Levelized Cost of Energy) at regime of 45€/MWh, competitive not only with RES based generation technologies, but also with fossil fuel based systems, without need of public incentives.
Objectives of the work performed
The need for the technology to be progressively scaled up, until the realization of the MW class generator, required a preliminary market analysis, aimed both to assess the marketability of an intermediate product (the SP2 - 60 kW rated power Skypull generator) and to validate the related business model.

Main results achieved
Skypull SP2 System marketability has been assessed and validated. Among many, a first target market has been assessed - by mean of both a desk and a field analysis: On-grid installation of small wind energy generator. SP2 appears to be, given the assumptions made, a competitive product on this market. A second alternate potential target market has been partially assessed too: off grid or mini grid installation in less developed countries. SP2 may represent a valid alternate solution for this market as well, even if this market is highly fragmented due to the impact of local needs and regulations.
We consider that the activities performed have validated the marketability of SP2 Skypull system.
Skypull is potentially able to provide high quantities of low cost energy produced from a renewable source. The technology can be disruptive since no RES based technologies appears nowadays to be enough competitive in terms of LCOE compared to fossil fuel based systems and to have an EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) sufficiently high to allow present economical patterns. Skypull SP2 system represents an intermediate step solution to reach this goal.
SP2 would have targetable markets to be addressed (whereas it would show the expected performances, even if not optimized) while it’s marketability is highly advisable, in order to validate the operability of the system and to relief the financial burdens of the technology development (also from an investor’s perspective).
Next project step will consist therefore in realizing and marketing the Skypull SP2 market demonstrator.
Sunset @bSkypull's test site above Lugano's lake