Wind-power generation, having expanding offshore, is now looking to higher altitudes. Renewable-energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan has issued the first market report which analyses the industry of High Altitude Wind Energy (HAWE). The designs from the industry are intended to tap into the high velocity, stable air currents that exist at altitudes 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 industry with small entrepreneurs and inventors has flourished, with a diverse array of designs at various stages of development. Small and full 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. Hence, the report looks at the potential for investor involvement at the nascent stages of this industry.
The basis for a HAWE system is relatively simple; a tethered object flying at altitude uses a mechanical system to harness 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. The report looks at the prototypes, the potential of the major players, and challenges that must be met for the technology to flourish.
As altitude increases, wind velocity and consistency increases. Wind-power increases with the cube of the velocity, so the potential wind energy increases massively with greater velocities at greater heights. 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 on altitudes above two kilometres. Data for extreme heights has been limited so GL Garrad Hassan examines the potential resource, associated energy figures, and analyses the energy potential at altitudes of above 1km.
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. The report also outlines political and legal frameworks across multiple regional energy markets, with potential to affect high-altitude technology.
HAWE systems have potential to take energy generation from wind to a new dimension by unlocking resources with greater potential energy than so far realised. Investment is bringing more visibility to the industry. With the first full-scale systems soon on the horizon, the GL Garrad Hassan report is a valuable tool, say authors, for those seeking to gain an overview of this new market segment. The market report can be ordered at the GL Garrad Hassan website: www.gl-garradhassan.com.
GL Garrad Hassan
Filed Under: News, Offshore wind, Towers