German energy company RWE has announced plans to establish a facility in County Mayo, Ireland, for testing the potential of new airborne wind energy (AWE) technologies.
The company has obtained planning permission to build the facility, with construction of the site infrastructure expected to begin later this year.
RWE Renewables Europe and Asia-Pacific Wind Onshore and Photovoltaic chief operating officer Katja Wünschel said: “The launch of an airborne wind testing site in Ireland is an early move for RWE into a new technology to generate green electricity.
“Our demonstration project will give us the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the technology being developed and to build valuable relationships with the pioneers and innovators of airborne wind.”
RWE’s first testing facility, which will be delivered in partnership with Dutch company Ampyx Power, is backed by the European Union’s Interreg North-West Europe funding programme.
Ampyx Power CEO Fabrizio Nastri said: “After 12 years of hard work and multiple generations of smaller prototypes, we are excited to start operating our technology demonstrator on a 150kW scale in Ireland in a real operational environment.
“Collaborating with RWE and incorporating their vast experience of wind energy into our product design is a big step toward commercialising our technology.”
The test centre will initially test, verify and demonstrate a 150kW demonstrator system, followed by a commercial scale 1MW system later.
The facility will be operational for eight years, during which RWE will also test systems from other AWE developers.
The demonstrator system comprises a ground-based winch generator, a launch and land platform, and a small device shaped like an aircraft.
With a 12m (40ft) wingspan, the device is connected to a generator by an ultra-strong tether and draws the tether from the winch. The device acts against the resistance of the built-in generator and generates electricity.
Once the tether is fully extended, the device glides back towards the winch, as the tether is reeled back in. This cycle is carried out repeatedly for producing clean, low-cost electricity.
In December, RWE signed an agreement to divest a 51% stake in four onshore wind facilities in Texas, US, to a subsidiary of Algonquin Power and Utilities for $600m.