Ecorys conducted a study for DG Research and Innovation on the innovative energy technology Airborne Wind Energy Systems. The study started in August 2017 and it was completed in September 2018. The EU Bookshop, which is the online bookshop of the European Union, published the Ecorys-report on their website. The study was conducted together with the Fraunhofer IWES, NLR and the Politechnic University of Milan.
Airborne Wind Energy Systems is the umbrella name for a series of potentially game-changing concepts to convert wind energy into electricity. The technology landscape still features several concepts that are being pursued. A combination of private and public investments has so far supported these developments. Despite some major achievements and continuing growth of the field, the technologies are far from mature.
The overall aim of the study is to provide clear insight into the Airborne Wind Energy sector in order to facilitate the most efficient and effective use of research and innovation investments for the (further) development of Airborne Wind Energy Systems. To this purpose, the study provides an overview of the technological state of the art, assesses the market potential and barriers and lastly, the study outlines measures and a pathway towards commercialisation.
Findings and recommendations
The study finds that the technology is still immature and that it remains unclear whether the technology can ultimately reach cost-competitiveness and contribute to EU energy security and decarbonisation targets. However, the case for Airborne Wind Energy Systems from the perspective of EU industrial leadership seems strong. Moreover, there seems sufficient potential to continue exploring the technology. The sector needs to do so under a risk-controlled technology development approach. A framework is proposed to facilitate discussions about appropriate incentives and public support at various development stages. In addition, the study presents specific recommendations:
- Prove continuous operations: define, achieve and prove reliability targets;
- Substantiate the Airborne Wind Energy Systems case: deepen insight in resource potential and complementarity;
- Anchor learning: build on previous experiences and improve fundamental understanding;
- Create a hub: concentrate testing activities in one geographic location;
- Utilize technology cross-overs: invest in enabling technologies;
- Build mutual trust: set realistic expectations and offer a conditional outlook of stable support.
Click here to download the final study report on the EU Bookshop, which is managed by the Publications Office of the European Union.
Karel van Hussen, study coordinator
T +31 (0)10 453 8800 | E: Karel.vanHussen@ecorys.com