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Market Report High Altitude Wind Energy

Released: August 2011

Fresh Winds at Great Heights: First market report on High Altitude Wind Energy issued by DNV GL.

The world’s demand for safe and clean energy continues to grow, with renewable sources playing an every greater role. Wind power generation, having expanding offshore, is now not only looking out but up. International renewable energy consultancy, DNV GL, has issued the first market report which analyses the burgeoning new industry of High Altitude Wind Energy (HAWE). HAWE systems are designed to tap into the high velocity, stable air currents that exist at altitudes anywhere from 200m to 20 km above the earth; a source for generating cheaper and more abundant electricity than current wind technology.

The report looks at the potential of high altitude winds as an energy source, the current technologies within the sector and their potential as mature systems. As well as assessing individual technologies and the companies developing them, the report addresses the technical and regulatory challenges faced by the industry and the likelihood of its success.

As this emerging industry has grown, a cottage like mentality with small entrepreneurs and inventors has flourished, with a diverse array of systems types at various stages of development. Small and real scale prototypes from many developers are currently in active development. The report identifies 22 companies that have already developed, or have announced their intention to develop, prototypes including: kites, kytoons and aerostats, and gliders or sailplanes with turbines or airfoils attached. In Europe and America, these developers are beginning to see an influx of investment from both private and governmental partners and the report looks at the potential for investor involvement at the nascent stages of this industry.

Technological Diversity

The basis for a HAWE system is relatively simple; a tethered object flying at altitude uses a mechanical system to harness the kinetic energy from the wind. The design of the object, the extraction mechanism and the tethering system, varies considerably among the many systems in development. The system might take the form of a kite, a parachute, or a rotating balloon, or a fixed wing, be tethered in parallel, on a floating platform offshore. Our report looks at the prototypes, the potential of the major players and the challenges that need to be met for the technology to flourish.

Greater Wind Potential at 200m Plus

As altitude increases, wind velocity and consistency increases. Wind power increases with the cube of the velocity, so with the greater and greater velocities at greater and greater heights, the potential wind energy increases massively. This logic underlies the push to build turbines with higher towers. HAWE systems are expected to operate at heights of greater than 200m, with the focus being at altitudes above two kilometres. Data for extreme heights has been limited but DNV GL examines the potential resource, the associated energy figures, and analyses the energy potential at altitudes of above 1km.

Offshore Potential

The wind industry continues to move offshore, with onshore locations often limited in regions with growing energy demand. High altitude systems seem promising in terms of offshore application as they could overcome some of the currently challenging hurdles. The report looks at the potential of HAWE systems in offshore regions, especially where water depth plays a role in the installation of conventional turbine systems. Challenges facing the systems and the current and possible regulatory environmental are analysed in terms of their future commercial applications; and the political and legal frameworks, across multiple regional energy markets, with the potential to affect high altitude technology application are outlined.

The Ground Floor of High Altitude

HAWE systems have the potential to take energy generation from wind into a new dimension; unlocking resources with far greater potential energy than so far realised. With investment bringing more visibility to the industry, and the first full scale systems soon on the horizon the DNV GL report is a valuable tool for those seeking to gain an overview of this new market segment.

The market report can be ordered via Peter Frohboese at DNV GL’s German Office: Brooktorkai 18, 20457 Hamburg / Germany, Tel.:+49 40 36 14 9 -2748, Fax.: +49 40 36149 - 5920 or from highaltitudewind@gl-group.com.

Full copies of the report are available to accredited journalists. To obtain one of these please contact pr@gl-group.com.

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