Greening the Islands Foundation

Groundbreaking Centre of Excellence in La Gomera Will Help Make Airborne Wind Energy a Reality in Small Islands

Airborne Wind Europe proposes the creation of an AWES-Lab and AWES-Flight Test Center (FTC) at La Gomera, a Spanish island perfect for AWE. With four systems generating 1.2 MW, the FTC aims for continuous operation data and green energy provision, involving site assessment, permits, community engagement, and operational insights. Emphasizing public acceptance through a Renewable Energy Community, this initiative aligns with La Gomera’s energy strategies, bridging gaps in wind power markets unreachable by conventional technologies.

 

AWE systems emerged commercially in 2021, led by Skysails Power with a grid-connected 150kW system in Mauritius, though their cost efficiency, at around 20 cts€/kWh, is not yet at par with conventional technologies. However, they compete cost-effectively in locations with diesel gensets or where other renewables like wind turbines or solar aren’t viable.

 

La Gomera, a Spanish island, is exclusively suited for AWE energy. Airborne Wind Europe Spanish member CT Ingenieros, with local and international partners, proposed the creation of a Centre of Excellence (COE) comprising a state-of-the-art AWES-Lab to develop the future technologies required for utility-scale AWES; and a Flight Test Center (FTC) for AWE systems, aiming to provide data for 24/7 operation and green energy for locals via 1.2 MW output from 4 AWE systems (i.e. the first AWES farm in the world).

 

The project covers site assessment, permits, transborder licensing, local community involvement, installation and operation, intending to showcase experiences and data from initial phases, including operational hours and community engagement.

 

Public acceptance, integral for AWE, is emphasized through a Renewable Energy Community. The project aligns with La Gomera’s energy and technological development strategies. The initiative serves as a learning ground for expanding wind power markets where traditional turbines can’t reach, promoting public-private collaboration for a sustainable energy shift.

 

Commercially available AWE systems, priced lower than diesel-generated electricity, provide insights for developers, aiding AWE system development and integration into portfolios for self-consumption or repowering.

 

Policy makers are urged to facilitate AWE deployment via regulation, support schemes, and R&D funding. The European AWES Industry Centre of Excellence (COE) at La Gomera fills a critical research infrastructure gap for AWE.

 

The COE focuses on AWES technology development encompassing aircraft design, advanced modelling, hardware integration, avionics and ground systems simulation. Its incorporation into the initiative was unanimously accepted.

 

After negotiation, La Gomera’s Cabildo accepted the scope and budget of the COE under “Estrategia Gomera 36” part of a national-local collaboration with over 230 projects until 2036. There is a return on investment scheme based on local energy community self-consumption.

 

This initiative, emphasizing public acceptance and aligning with local strategies, stands as a signal for expanding wind power markets, urging policy support and offering valuable insights for developers. The European AWES Industry Centre of Excellence, a critical research initiative, demonstrates the collaborative potential for a sustainable energy shift, illustrating a clear pathway for AWE systems integration and development for small islands.

Article written by: Kristian Petrick Airborne Wind Europe Secretary General and Agustín Arjonilla, AWEurope Board member and CT Ingenieros Senior Consultant.

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