Norwegian airborne wind energy (AWE) company Kitemill has bought the intellectual property assets of Scotland’s Kite Power Systems (KPS), as it ramps up plans to set up the first high altitude wind demonstration farm on the southwest tip of the Nordic country in 2021.
The acquistion, which encompasses KPS patents, prototypes, design reports, simulations, technical databases and market studies, comes in the wake of Google parent Alphabet’s decision to discontinue its development of another AWE concept, developed by takeover Makani.
“It is great that we won through and had the opportunity to buy the KPS intellectual property … and that key previous KPS employees are available for continued cooperation and can contribute to support the absorption of the KPS knowledge into Kitemill,” said Kitemill CEO Thomas Hårklau.
"The value of all intellectual property from KPS is difficult to estimate for sure, but it is clear that this will set us up for faster growth in both sales, earnings and the number of jobs.
“This adds a lot of expertise to Norway, and especially on the development that KPS has carried out regarding the ground station, airborne systems and design tools.”
Kitemill majority shareholder Jon Gjerde, who also chairs industry body Airborne Wind Europe, sees the acquisition as “very good news” for the AWE sector.
“It makes sense to collaborate on the development of new energy technologies, we have been expecting to see consolidation and concentration of R&D resources in the industry, and this is exactly what is happening now,” he said.
“We are pleased previous key personnel from KPS are willing to support us to get the maximum out of all the efforts that have been made on both sides of the North Sea.
The first Kitemill AWE unit, which will have a nameplate of 30kW, will have a 7.5m wingspan, outfitted with four propellers for vertical takeoff and landing. It needs 5 metres/second (m/s) winds to take off and will generate full power in 12m/s gusts.
KPS was one of the darlings of the AWE sector, banking $2.5m from the Scottish Investment Bank in 2017 , on top of another $1.3m from Shell, E.ON and Schlumberger in an investment round the year before.
The AWE sector has struggled with the crosswinds of commercialisation over the last decade, with no market-ready designs yet ready for lift-off despite having the potential to produce power at levellised cost of energy that Kitemill calculates at “below €30/MWh” – lower than convention offshore wind.