Wind Power of the Future: Germany’s First Airborne Wind Energy System Successfully Evaluated According to Aviation Law


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Germany’s first airborne wind energy system has passed a series of essential tests in Schleswig-Holstein. The pilot unit can now go into continuous operation. The evaluation according to aviation law requirements included the validation of operational and safety concepts for day and nighttime operation.

The pilot unit was constructed as part of the “SkyPower100” project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. SkySails Power GmbH, EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, EWE Offshore Service & Solutions GmbH, and Leibniz Universität Hannover are jointly gathering valuable insights into environmental influences, safety aspects, and approval requirements for the development and scaling of future airborne wind energy systems. Specific data includes surveys on noise emissions, avifauna, and air traffic safety.

Airborne wind energy systems tap into the continuous and steadier winds at altitudes of up to 800 meters. These winds enable a very stable electricity production that allows for a more significant and more reliable wind-driven
power supply. The construction of such systems also has a lesser impact on the landscape than conventional wind turbines. The light and compact design also allow their deployment in areas that are difficult to access. Their slim
design minimalizes shadow casting and noise emissions, thereby creating a particularly small impact on humans and animals. Consequently, airborne wind energy systems represent a forward-looking addition to existing wind turbines and further accelerate the development of a decentralized renewables supply in Germany and the world.

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Airborne wind energy systems consist of a ground station with a winch and an integrated generator. To produce energy, an automatically controlled power kite pulls a tether from the winch. The tractive force is transferred to the
generator, which produces electricity. Once the tether has reached its maximum extension, the autopilot steers the kite into a neutral position. The generator now acts as a motor and retracts the tether, while consuming only a
fraction of the energy generated during the work phase. The excess energy is fed into the grid, and the power cycle starts over.

The power kites used on the pilot unit have a size of up to 120 m². For the realization of the project, a Flight Restriction Area (ED-R) was established for the project location in close cooperation with the Aviation Authority of
Schleswig-Holstein, the Federal Ministry of Transport, the surrounding communities, the DRF Luftrettung as well as the air sports association. The experience gained from the ED-R operation is an essential step for the future
definition of approval processes of airborne wind energy systems.

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