As the climate crisis unfolds with increasing dramatism, it’s been laid clear just how important it is that we transition to a greener, cleaner and more sustainable society. Across Europe, this has been compounded by an escalating energy crisis which has exposed the fragility of our energy systems, the vulnerability we have to price fluctuations, and just urgent it is that we shift to renewable, dependent energy alternatives.
It’s reported that the energy sector alone is responsible for almost 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions. By transitioning to greener sources we can make a massive impact in bettering our society – for the planet and for people.
Across Europe, the Green Transition is being paved by startups – thanks to innovators that are daring to dream big and try new approaches, solutions and strategies for energy production, dissemination and beyond. As a result, renewable energy in terms of wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, biomass and solar, has all become more readily available and it’s a very exciting development to follow.
Obviously, given the ever-increasing urgency to find solutions to this major global problem, the attention of investors is also growing. Worldwide VC investment in Energy tech in 2021 was $22.2 billion, up 124% from $9.9 billion in 2020. In Europe, the UK is second only to Sweden in 2021 for investments in this sector. If you’re interested in tracking GreenTech developments across Europe, make sure you check out our monthly GreenTech Report, which is powered by Net Zero Insights and gives you a comprehensive look at the space.
Here, though, we wanted to highlight the wind energy sector, to see which technologies and startups are breathing innovation in the sector.
KiteKraft: This Munich-based wind energy startup is involved in the design and development of flying wind turbines to produce electrical energy & electricity generation at a low cost. Their technology needs 10x less building materials compared to conventional wind turbines. It cuts the carbon footprint of wind energy by 90% as a flying wind turbine requires only a fraction of the materials compared to conventional ones. Their kites are mostly made of aluminium which can easily be recycled, much better than carbon/glass fibre-reinforced plastics – the material conventional wind turbines are made of. KiteKraft systems are very compact and can be packed in standard shipping containers, reducing logistics costs. Founded in 2019 KiteKraft has raised a total funding amount of €1.3 million till date.
Airturb: This Rotterdam-based startup focuses on producing sustainable energy solutions. The Airturb Model One is a small-scale, silent wind turbine that hardly stands out on your roof, so no need to worry about aesthetics with this one. The Airturb-Model-One can deliver the energy for the consumption of one average household, meaning users wouldn’t be vulnerable to price fluctuation and supply issues. In addition, it is vibration-free, silent and animal-friendly. Founded in 2018, the Dutch startup has so far raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding.
Skypull: Lugano-based Skypull is developing an airborne wind energy system with a ground-based generator. With 95% less material than wind turbines, but double their production capacity, it produces renewable energy at the lowest cost. The Skypull fully autonomous VTOL aircraft flies like a kite in more powerful winds at higher altitudes, pulling on a tether connected to the generator to generate electricity. A reduced-scale prototype is already operational, and further development incorporates scalability of production, to allow acceleration of the buildup of affordable renewable energy for countering climate change. Founded in 2017, it has raised a total funding amount of €217k.
Airthium: Founded in 2016, Airthium is building a new kind of energy storage system that stores electricity as heat reversibly and in the form of ammonia. The system relies on a high-temperature heat pump/heat engine to heat molten salt and then convert the heat back into electricity, with a 70% round-trip efficiency. Airthium’s units can be used to store and deliver solar and wind energy, starting at 100 kW and up to GW scale (Utility). Further, an ammonia generation unit and an external ammonia burner can be added to the system, to provide uninterruptible power, or go off-grid, even after several days of bad weather (no sun/wind). Airthium is also building a low-cost seasonal battery that can store renewable energy for years instead of hours.
Perceptual Robotics: This Bristol-based startup is creating intelligent automation to make wind turbine and other infrastructure inspection simple. Utilizing an intelligent Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, this startup provides existing inspection engineers with a new, cost-effective inspection tool that increases the number of inspections, and quality, whilst minimizing health and safety risks. The inspection data are then automatically distilled to useful information about the position, size and severity of defects on the tower and blades. Founded in 2016, Perceptual Robotics has raised a total funding amount of €3.4 million.
Wind Catching Systems: Based in Norway, Wind Catching Systems is on a mission to enable floating wind to be leveraged as a competitive energy source. The innovative company is working with Aibel as the main engineering contractor and the Institute for Energy Technology on energy production. Whilst taking up significantly less space, five Wind Catching units can produce the same amount of electricity as 25 conventional turbines. Wind Catching designs its technology for easy operations and maintenance, with a 50-year design life. Founded in 2017, Wind Catching Systems has raised a total funding amount of €10 million till date.
Alerion: This Spanish startup offers AI drone solutions for infrastructure maintenance tasks, focusing on wind turbine inspections and similar challenging environments. The innovative company specializes in the development of high-performance embedded software, computer vision applications, artificial intelligence, and precision navigation relative to complex structures. Alerion has patented sophisticated laser navigation and tracking technology, allowing drones to intelligently navigate relative to complex shape structures, track them with a high degree of accuracy, and analyze sensor data in real-time, ensuring high-quality data in every mission. Founded in 2014, and with a team of 26 employees, it has loaded a total funding amount of €2.2 million.
Modvion: This Swedish startup accelerates the transition to renewable energy and materials by building wind turbine towers made from laminated wood. This startup is developing the next-gen of modular towers for higher power output to a lower cost. With lower material costs, cost-efficient logistics and a lower CO2 footprint, the solution is climate-friendly and cost-efficient. This is also enabled by utilizing renewable building materials. Modvion gives the solution to a significant problem and barrier in the global wind power industry which otherwise is stronger than ever with record installation rates, towers alone valued at roughly €23 billion annually. Founded in 2015, the startup has collected a total funding amount of €675k till date.
Jungle: Lisbon-based Jungle applies AI to increase the uptime and performance of renewable energy sources. Built on existing sensors and data streams, their technology enables solar and wind energy owners to squeeze more energy out of their sources, accelerating the world’s transition to renewable energy sources. Jungle AI has productised its services, tooling, and AI into a web application called Canopy, which is built on top of advanced AI models that are agnostic to the application. It also provides a new way of looking at wind assets’ health and performance. Canopy detects turbines that are producing less than they should, under all operating conditions. Founded in 2016, and with a team of 27 employees, it has raised a total funding amount of €5 million.
i4SEE: This Austrian startup is harnessing the power of AI to predict wind turbine failures. As a result, it can lower energy costs and fuel a renewables revolution. It provides fully automated wind turbine data analytics and fleet optimization. Their methods are based on decades of domain expertise, embedded into highly efficient software tools. i4SEE enables clients to analyze thousands of wind turbines with the highest level of automation. The combination of wind turbine data analytics at a huge scale with high automation has extraordinary potential for reducing the cost of renewable energy now and into the future. Founded in 2019, i4SEE has a team of currently around 10 employees.
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