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European Sustainable Energy Week
News announcement7 May 2024European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency3 min read

Airborne wind energy project announced as finalist in 2024 European Sustainable Energy Awards

Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) is ready for take-off, aiming to harness stronger, more stable winds at higher altitudes, improving cost efficiency and transforming the renewable energy sector.

Our Airborne Wind Energy solution enables new and better wind resources higher up in the air, and it handles the same power with a fraction of the materials of other renewable energy technologies, representing one of the largest technology steps in the energy industry the past 40 years,’ says AWE founder Thomas Hårklau from Kitemill in Norway.

Kitemill’s AWE project received a €2.4 million grant under the SME instrument of the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme, enabling it to develop and demonstrate the operation of the system and take a giant step towards commercial application.

This included five hours of continuous operation,’ explains Thomas. ‘The flight path covered a remarkable distance of over 500km, underscoring how AWE systems can deliver impressive endurance, rivalling that of many unmanned aviation applications.’

The AWE system consists of three main parts: a kite, a tether, and a ground station. The kite stays aloft by gliding on air currents. The tether transforms the pull force from the kite to the ground-station generator, which then converts the tractive force from the tether to electricity.

The kite is flown at an altitude of 300 m, way beyond the height of the largest wind turbines, enabling it to reach far stronger winds, with lower manufacturing costs and requiring significantly less land space than traditional wind farms.

The idea for the system was a spin-off from participation in an attempt for a record-breaking circumnavigation of the Earth using a kite-propelled vessel.

It became clear for us what immense impact the kites could have on the energy industry,’ says Thomas. ‘As engineers with start-up experience and a world hang gliding champion as investor, we realised that we probably had the best team to enable Airborne Wind Energy. This made us found Kitemill.’

The project addresses all the issues with conventional wind and, when the technology is mature, it will disrupt all other renewable energy sources,’ Thomas predicts. ‘We can handle an immense amount of power with kites, much more than we anticipated when we started the project, and with very few materials.’

The Kitemill founder says the project has the potential of transforming the way we utilise wind power: ‘It presents a promising and innovative approach, aiming for a significant impact on climate change mitigation and the global transition to renewable energy.’

Kitemill’s achievements have allowed them to raise a further EUR 5 million in the last 12 months, with private investors encouraged by the strong support from both the European Innovation Council and the European Innovation Fund. 

Thanks to an additional EUR 3.35 million grant from the Innovation Fund, they will be able to demonstrate their technology at a scale of 12-array AWE systems and advance their commercialisation plan.

Thomas is confident of the future: ‘As we scale and deploy AWE systems, the impact will grow through substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increased access to affordable renewable energy, and the stimulation of local economies.’




The Airborne Wind Energy project is one of three finalists shortlisted for the European Sustainable Energy Awards 2024 in the Innovation category. The award recognises outstanding ongoing or recently completed EU-funded projects that show an original and innovative path towards the clean energy transition. The other finalists in this category are the Photorama project and the outPHit project, both pan-European initiatives.

Photorama is a project working to improve the recycling of photovoltaic panels. outPHit is supporting energy efficient renovation projects throughout Europe.


EUSEW Awards ​celebrate Europe’s best clean energy projects and leaders 

The ​ European Sustainable Energy Awards ​ (EUSEW Awards) recognise outstanding individuals and projects for their innovation and efforts in energy efficiency and renewables. The nine finalists have been selected by a high-level jury in three categories: Innovation, Local Energy Action, and Woman in Energy. The finalists will be submitted to an online public vote, which is open now until 2 June, and the winners will be announced during the EUSEW Awards Ceremony in June 2024. ​ 

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EUSEW 2024 

European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), the​ biggest annual event dedicated to renewables and efficient energy use in Europe, takes place on 11-13 June under the theme ‘Net-zero energy solutions for a competitive Europe’. The event will bring together public authorities, private companies, NGOs and consumers to promote initiatives accelerating decarbonisation through green technologies and solutions towards a fair and just transition for people and competitive businesses.

Registrations for onsite attendance in Brussels and online participation are now open

For interview requests with the EUSEW Awards finalists or additional media information, please contact ​ mediaateusew [dot] eu (media[at]eusew[dot]eu)