High-Altitude Wind Energy Map Published

By Philip Bechtle (TU Bonn) and Udo Zillmann (Airborne Wind Europe)

Airborne wind energy has the potential to harvest wind energy at high altitudes. For the first commercial applications, it is foreseen that the airborne wind energy system can harvest anywhere between about 100m and 500m of altitude above ground and to adapt its flight pattern to the wind conditions. Today, Airborne Wind Europe publishes various maps of the high-altidue wind ressource over Europe under this paradigm: The adaption of the harvesting altitude according to the best wind conditions. These maps show that the high-altitude winds over Europe at the best altitude up to 500 meters are much stronger and steadier than at a fixed altitude of about 100 m.


At most places onshore and offshore, the mean wind speed at high-altitude is at least 1 to 2 m/s higher than at 100m altitude.


Average high-altitude wind speeds exceed 10 m/s above practically all of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and also onshore above all of the British Isles and Denmark and large parts of the Scandinavian Peninsula.


Onshore wind speeds exceed 7,5 m/s above most of Western and Central Europe, with the exception of Italy and parts of Spain, as well as some regions in the Alps.


Far offshore sites off the coast of Ireland boast mean wind speeds exceeding 12,5 m/s and even 13,75 m/s.


These findings show that when airborne wind energy devices are utilized local wind potential becomes much less of an aspect for deployment of wind parks, since most of Europe – onshore and offshore – becomes an attractive site for wind energy generation.


The maps have been generated in cooperation with TU Delft and University of Bonn utilizing the new ERA5 re-analysis data that is based on a large number of measurements wordwide and that provides hourly wind data at various altitudes. It should be noted that the high-altitude wind maps do not show the wind speed at the fixed altitude of 500 m above ground but do take into account higher wind speeds at lower altitude and apply the highest wind speed available at that site at any given hour at any altitude up to 500 m. This takes into account the ability of airborne wind energy systems to dynamically lower their flight altitude to harvest these stronger low level winds should they occur.


Background information on the wind data can be obtained in the paper: Schelbergen, Schmehl, Zillmann, Watson “Airborne Wind Energy Resource Analysis”, submitted to “Renewable Energy”, https://arxiv.org/abs/1808.07718.

The maps were produced with public data and open source code which can be downloaded here: https://github.com/rschmehl/awe-era5, so that the wind maps can be independently modified and verified.

In addition to the wind speed maps, maps with median wind speed and mean and median wind power have been produced for 100m and for up to 500 m altitude. Each map has been produced in two versions, one with high resolution of the wind speed respectively power scale and one with a low resolution of the scale to allow easier comparison of the data on the basis of the simplified colour code.

Airborne Wind Europe will use this first set of maps as a starting point of its work on the high-altitude wind ressource and will provide further maps and online tools to allow utilities, developers, politics and the public to better assess the feasibility of airborne wind energy.


TU Delft and University of Bonn have already committed their continued collaboration but other parties are invited to join these efforts. Please contact the authors of the paper for more detail.

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