RWE establishing test site for airborne wind energy in Mayo

18 May 2021

The Ampyx aircraft device. Image: RWE

Bangor Erris in north Mayo will become a test site for this new technology that could generate green electricity.

German energy group RWE has chosen Ireland as the location to launch its first test centre to investigate the potential of airborne wind energy technologies.

It has received planning permission to build a new facility in Co Mayo, and construction of the site infrastructure is expected to begin later this year.

‘The launch of an airborne wind testing site in Ireland is an early move for RWE into a new technology to generate green electricity’

Airborne wind energy systems aim to harness the power of strong and steady winds at altitudes greater than several hundred metres. The system being tested by RWE consists of a ground-based winch generator, a launch-and-land platform, and a small aircraft-shaped device.

This device, which has a 12-metre wingspan, is connected to the generator by an ultra-strong tether. The tether is drawn out and reeled back in, producing electricity by acting against the resistance of the generator. This cycle is repeated with the aim of producing clean, low-cost energy.

According to RWE, current airborne wind energy demonstrators have power output capacities between 100kW and 200kW. Developing this technology further could increase the potential output to megawatts, it added, which would make it attractive for use at large windfarms.

“The launch of an airborne wind testing site in Ireland is an early move for RWE into a new technology to generate green electricity,” said Katja Wünschel, COO of onshore and photovoltaic for Europe and Asia Pacific at RWE Renewables.

“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 is partnering with Ampyx Power, a Dutch company that is developing the innovative wind energy technology.

It is also working with Mayo County Council to develop the site in Bangor Erris in the north of the county.

Peter Duggan, interim chief executive at the county council, said the project marks “another significant step towards a sustainable future” for the area.

“This project along with other renewable energy projects in north Mayo … illustrates the importance of the county in terms of renewable energy on a national and European level.”

RWE has had a presence in Ireland since 2016 and now has offices in Kilkenny and Dún Laoghaire.

It constructed the 10MW Dromadda Beg onshore windfarm in Kerry in 2018 and has applied for planning permission to develop a 62MW onshore windfarm in Cork.

It is also developing the Dublin Array offshore windfarm in partnership with Saorgus Energy, which is set to have an installed capacity of 600MW to 900MW.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic