EON bets big on electric possibilities of Mayo winds

High-flying, energy-generating drones are coming to the Wild Atlantic Way...

German electric utility EON is primed to pump €3 million into Mayo, as it begins to test flying power-generating drone technology off the coast of the county.

The Atlantic demonstration site will allow the company to develop the autonomous and airborne wind energy drones and bring them closer to mass commercialisation.

EON reached an agreement with Dutch firm Ampyx Power to be the site's first user. The construction of the facility should pave the way for widespread collaboration on new wind power technology.

EON invested £5m (€5.9m) in Scottish airborne wind energy developer Kite Power Systems (KPS) last December and plans to build a kite-driven power statiion near Stranraer in southwest Scotland.

Speaking to The Irish Times, EON spokesman Markus Nitschke said the conditions in Connacht were preferable even to southwest Scotland, with the positive approach of Irish authorities sweetening the deal:

"The wind in Ireland is the best. We also feel there is a good spirit in the country to make this work out."

In an official statement, EON said the move sees it "strengthening its position as a frontrunner and early adopter in airborne wind energy, an emerging sector developing game changing technologies for renewable energy production."

It continued:

"Developing a test site is an important stepping stone which enables EON to work closely with the most promising technology developers and to provide support for the commercialisation of airborne wind technology.

"This landmark development opens up new possibilities for collaboration with a multitude of companies pioneering airborne wind power generation technology as well as being a platform working together with research and governmental institutes."

EON chief executive Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath said:

"Airborne wind supports one of our overall targets to drive down cost for renewable energy. In addition to making airborne wind competitive to conventional wind power, we would like to work with authorities and legislators to pave the way for introducing this exciting technology and eventually make it eligible to participate in tendering processes."

Airborne wind technology harvests wind energy by using a fixed wing or sail comparable to kite-surfing in altitudes up to 450 meters.

This novel technology has the potential to transform the global offshore wind generation market as airborne wind devices are cheaper to manufacture and easier to maintain than conventional wind turbines.

Additionally, they are easier deployed in deeper waters surrounding countries such as Portugal, Japan and the United States. Of course, airborne wind energy can also be deployed onshore.