A Boost for the Energy Sector

A further advantage of the system: Airborne wind energy systems can provide enormous savings in material and investment costs: Rotor blades weighing tons, solid towers and reinforced concrete foundations that absorb the aerodynamic forces generated on the rotor surface currently account for more than 50 percent of investment costs.

These would become surplus to needs, as the ground station of an airborne wind energy system including generator need not be bigger than a car and has the added advantage of being mobile and thus not tied to a specific location.

Airborne systems can achieve 75 percent of full capacity annually, compared with conventional wind plants which achieve only 35 percent. Re-using the foundations of off-shore wind plants for airborne systems rather than having to rebuild the towers every twenty years enables a further huge saving in terms of concrete and raw materials.

“Airborne wind energy systems, whether in the form of kites, zeppelins, or other forms of airship, are still very much in their infancy,” says Dr. Christian Nayeri, head of the Airborne Wind Energy Systems research group. “We are primarily concerned with creating the scientific foundations for this technology of the future.”

This includes optimizing the aerodynamics of the system, plotting and calculating the best aerial routes, conducting computer simulations and experiments using models in TU Berlin’s wind tunnels as well as under water in the University’s 250-meter-long towing tank, one of the largest scientific towing tanks in Europe, and, above all, the design of the automated self-control of the airborne turbines, which have to regulate their heights or their alignment to the wind independently as there is no pilot on board. Industry is also taking a close interest, as the research group’s work actively contributes to the regenerative energy revolution of tomorrow.