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Testing new type of wind energy technology in Bangor Erris

Airborne Wind Energy

Airborne Wind Energy is a new type of wind energy technology that RWE is testing in Ireland in collaboration with its technology partner Kitepower, its partners in Mayo County Council and the MegaAwe Project, with funding from Interreg North West Europe.

The site in Bangor Erris was chosen after an extensive global search for a suitable location to develop this technology. 

Interreg North-West Europe | MegaAWE

RWE is helping to develop airborne wind energy (AWE) technology with our partner Kitepower. RWE believes that once AWE reaches commercial size, it could have a strong impact on the growth of the wind energy sector, and could be an important technology for RWE, complementing our existing renewables portfolio of wind, solar energy and battery storage. With low capital expenditure and less materials, airborne wind could have an important role in helping drive down the cost of energy further. It will use winds at higher altitudes which are stronger, steadier and more constant. It can be used onshore as well as offshore and in combination with other technologies such as solar electricity generation.

The Kitepower technology

Kitepower, as the name suggests, uses a large kite structure with a hybrid inflatable and fixed fibreglass skeleton to hold the kite open. It has a wingspan of 40 meters x 4 meters wide and weighs only 80kg, including the Kite Control and sensor unit. The Kitepower Falcon test system can generate up to 100kW. The Kite will initially be flown at up to 350m altitude and over the coming months could be tested to fly at greater heights.

The dedicated test hub in Bangor Erris is the first of its kind and will help to further accelerate the development of airborne wind systems. It enables exploring this new class of renewables as potential contribution to the global energy mix in the near future.

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Kitepower uses a Kite Control Unit (KCU) attached to the tether, to control the direction the kite flies – not unlike how a kite surfer or paraglider controls their kite.

The Dyneema tether (an ultra-strong rope which has a higher strength than steel wire of the same dimension but less than one tenth of its weight) is attached to a Ground Station, housed in a conventional 20 foot container.

The ground station has a generator which converts the mechanical energy of the kite into electricity.

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Electricity production

Electricity is produced in the “Reel Out Phase” when the kite is flown in a cross-wind figure of eight pattern achieving a high pulling force which pulls out the tether from the winch in the ground station. During this Reel Out Phase, the Kitepower “Falcon” produces electricity. When the tether reaches its maximum, the kite is directed back to directly above the ground station by the KCU and the tether is reeled in using a small amount of energy. This is known as the “Reel In Phase”. 

When the Reel in Phase is complete, the Reel Out Phase begins again. Normally these two phases take 100 seconds, 80 seconds for Reel Out and 20 seconds for Reel In. 

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