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Page added on May 25, 2013

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Google and Wind Energy: Acquisition of Makani Kite Power

It’s been a long time since we covered Makani Power, the company developing kite-like wind turbines. But the company didn’t float away (bad pun intended). In fact, it has just been bought by Google, for development under its Google[x] division.

Image Credit: Makani / Google

Image Credit: Makani / Google

Some quick history: Makani’s creators several years ago came up with the idea of essentially combining kites with wind turbines in order to capture the strong and steady wind energy high up in the sky — too high for conventional wind turbines to capture.

“The secret to the air turbine design lies in using a fraction of the material necessary for a standard wind turbine. A conventional 1-megawatt wind turbine can weigh more than 100 tons, but Makani’s airborne turbine only uses a carbon-fiber wing and lightweight rotors of their own creation,” Silvio wrote back in 2011. “The company says its 1-megawatt airborne turbine system will weigh a tenth as much and have an installed price half a normal turbine, but with the same rated power.”

“We expect the cost to be around 3 cents a kilowatt-hour,” said Corwin Hardham, Makani CEO. “That’s getting lower than a lot of coal-fired generation at the moment.”

Makani Power has received a number of awards and grants over the years, including a $3 million dollar grant from the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, and $20 million in venture capital funding from Google.

Back in 2011, the aim was to reach commercial production by 2015.

Google’s purchase: Apparently, Google liked what it saw. And a critical development unveiled last week probably didn’t hurt. From the Makani Power website: “This formalizes a long and productive relationship between our two companies, and will provide Makani with the resources to accelerate our work to make wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels. The timing couldn’t be better, as we completed the first ever autonomous all-modes flight with our Wing 7 prototype last week.”

“They’ve turned a technology that today involves hundreds of tons of steel and precious open space into a problem that can be solved with really intelligent software,” Google X Director Astro Teller said. ”We’re looking forward to bringing them into Google.”

What is Google[x]? Well, you won’t find a Google website about it (at least, I didn’t). But it is reportedly, “a secret facility run by Google thought to be located somewhere in the Bay Area of Northern California,” according to Wikipedia. ”Work at the lab is overseen by Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders.” About 100 potentially groundbreaking projects are reportedly in some process of development there. Google’s driverless car technology (which I happened to get some video of last year, as well as pics, while on a short trip to the Bay Area) and Project Glass are probably the two most well known projects in Google[x].

We’ll see where Makani’s (er, Google’s) wind turbine kites goes next. Hopefully they do hit those 2015 commercialization and 3 cents per kilowatt-hour targets.

For now, here are a few videos highlighting the innovative, kite-like wind turbines:


The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine from Energy NOW on Vimeo.



7 Comments on "Google and Wind Energy: Acquisition of Makani Kite Power"

  1. BillT on Sun, 26th May 2013 1:58 am 

    Another possibly, but now controlled by the big corporations. It will likely never see the market. Techies do have good imaginations … but not much sense of reality.

  2. John Orr on Sun, 26th May 2013 2:13 am 

    It’s another way of a company to spend money they saved not paying appropriate tax!!!…one system for us another for…

  3. keith on Sun, 26th May 2013 3:26 am 

    Why can’t we all just reduce the energy we use at home and travel. We as individuals need to get off our butts. It won’t happen till we our forced to make it happen?

  4. Norm on Sun, 26th May 2013 8:00 am 

    Another scam. This one unusual cause paid for privately rather than government porker scam. Still womt make reliable power. And watch it crash into the ground in a storm.

  5. BillT on Sun, 26th May 2013 8:01 am 

    Bingo Keith! Reducing use is the cheapest, fastest, easiest way to save money and still have the necessities. Note, I said ‘necessities’, not wants. We will have to learn to be more like the Filipinos who use about 1/20 the energy of Americans or 1/10 that of the Europeans. I think it is only a matter of time until we WILL be forced to do without a lot of things we now consider our ‘right’.

  6. BillT on Sun, 26th May 2013 8:04 am 

    Norm, they already got $3 million in grants from the government/taxpayer trough. Now Google gets the profits, if there are any. I don’t see this project getting off the ground. (Pun intended!)

  7. Kenz300 on Sun, 26th May 2013 7:52 pm 

    Safe, clean alternative energy is growing in use around the world.

    Global renewable energy investment surpasses fossil fuels

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