Airborne Wind Energy developer Kitemill attracts Voss Energi as lead investor

Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) developer Kitemill has attracted Norwegian utility firm Voss Energi as the lead investor for its latest crowdfunding campaign.

As part of its continued clean energy expansion, Voss has pledged NOK 3 million in equity and significant resources to support Kitemill’s development of the world’s first permanent test centre for AWE technology.

Established in 2008, Kitemill’s unique AWE technology unlocks vast areas of high-capacity wind energy up to half a mile above ground. It has potential to half costs compared to conventional wind turbines and triple energy yield per unit of area.

Finance secured through its latest crowdfunding round (*Get early access to invest in Kitemill) – due to launch on XX – will support the completion of Kitemill’s state-of-the-art AWE park in Lista, with plans to deploy up to five 20kW KM1 prototype systems. The next phase of Kitemill’s expansion involves the launch of its first commercial-scale system, the 100kW KM2, with 12 units being supplied to the Norse Airborne Wind Energy Project (NAWEP).

According to a recent white paper by BVG Associates, on behalf of Airborne Wind Europe, at utility-scale generation, the AWE market has potentially to grow to around $100bn (€92.39bn) by 2035–40 and several hundreds of billions soon after.

Kitemill CEO Thomas Hårklau said Voss Energi’s involvement sends a strong signal to the marketplace. In addition to capital, it provides access to an integrated energy company with experience operating and owning energy assets, and knowledge of associated grid challenges.

“Kitemill is on a mission to revolutionize the wind power industry,” he said. “Several start-ups and institutes are working on AWE, but Kitemill benefits from a number of key competitive advantages which will be critical for commercial success. Firstly, our system is fully automated following significant investments in control system development and demonstration. This is significant because AWE can only be commercialised if it operates autonomously in a reliable manner. Secondly, Kitemill has access to the world’s first formally approved test site for AWE. In addition, our team benefits from world-class experience across a broad range of relevant industries from wind energy, aviation, automotive and defence, while our innovative ground station concept has been optimised to drive high energy yields and minimise investment costs.”

Voss Energi CEO, Rune Nesheim, said ‘early mover’ status will provide the utility with competence and a significant commercial advantage to develop AWE projects once commercial products emerge.

“Investment in Kitemill provides Voss with access to world leading AWE technology, which has enormous potential to positively influence the future clean energy transition.” Nesheim said. “We will benefit from first-hand experience, learning how to operate, manage and integrate AWE assets with other forms of conventional energy production. This will ultimately provide a better total economy and an ‘innovative dimension’ to ensure a competitive edge in tenders. We’re particularly pleased to be supporting a local AWE technology developer, while strengthening our position as an innovative and sustainable energy provider in Norway and internationally.”

AWE systems have several important advantages compared to conventional wind turbines. Apart from a lower levelised cost of energy (LCOE), their energy output is also more stable, resulting in higher realised market prices. The mobility of AWE systems also facilitates installations at remote sites, enabling new business models. In addition, the manufacturing process of AWE systems has significantly less environmental impact, using up to 90% less material during construction and installation phases compared to conventional wind turbines.

Kitemill CFO Asgeir Løno said the firm’s long-term roadmap is targeting three specific market segments.

“There are a number of interesting opportunities for Kitemill’s technology including remote off-grid applications,” he said. “This provides an ideal environment to gain experience to advance the technology while offsetting diesel consumption of gen sets. AWE can also be integrated into conventional wind parks on the towers or nacelles of wind turbines. This hybrid system will help reduce grid and balance of plant costs, while achieving a more stable combined energy output and a higher energy density. Eventually, utility scale projects will drive the high-volume deployment of AWE technology.”

Kitemill’s last crowdfunding campaign closed in January 2023 and was oversubscribed by NOK 1 million.