RWE to Launch Airborne Wind Energy Testing Site in Ireland
Airborne Wind Energy TestingRWE

RWE to Launch Airborne Wind Energy Testing Site in Ireland

RWE, one of the world’s leading renewable energy players, is to establish its first test centre to investigate the potential of innovative airborne wind energy

RWE, one of the world’s leading renewable energy players, is to establish its first test centre to investigate the potential of innovative airborne wind energy technologies. Planning permission to build the new facility in County Mayo, Ireland, has now been granted and construction of the site infrastructure is expected to begin later this year. RWE is delivering the test site in partnership with Ampyx Power, a Dutch company that is developing the innovative wind energy technology. RWE’s test site will first undertake testing, verification and demonstration of a 150 kilowatts (kW) demonstrator system, followed later by a larger commercial-scale 1 megawatt (MW) system. RWE will also test systems from other AWE developers during the eight year operational lifetime of its test centre.

Airborne Wind Energy Systems harness the strong and steady winds at altitudes greater than several hundred metres, and with reduced infrastructure costs. The system being tested by RWE consists of a ground-based winch generator, a launch and land platform, and small, aircraft-shaped device.

The device, which has a 12-metre (about 40 feet) wingspan, is connected to the generator by an ultra-strong tether. It draws the tether from the winch and produces electricity by acting against the resistance of the built-in generator. Once the tether is fully extended, the device glides back towards the winch, as the tether is reeled back in. Retrieving the tether requires just a fraction of the electricity generated, resulting in net power production. This cycle is performed repeatedly, producing clean, low-cost electricity.

Current Airborne Wind Energy Systems demonstrators have power output capacities between 100 and 200 kW. Developing this technology further could increase the potential output to megawatts, making it attractive for use at large wind farms.

RWE’s test centre is supported by the Interreg North-West Europe funding programme, which was set up by the EU. Its MegaAWE project, of which RWE and Ampyx are partners, was set up to support technology development and commercialization within the airborne wind energy sector.

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