Google has invested in a new type of wind energy product called Makani.
Makani was founded in 2006 by Corwin Hardham, Don Montague and Saul Griffith and initially funded by Google.org as part of our RE<C program. It was later purchased by Google[x] in 2013.
The Makani looks almost like a mini airplane model, with long wings and tiny propellers at the front. It is attached to a strong flexible tether, which allows it to rise up into the air at a specific height (typically between (80-350 meters). The design allows the kite to be located in places where constructing a large tower would be prohibitive.
The kite is attached to a ground station, which is also used a resting place when not operating, and is also connected to a computer system with standard GPS, sensors, and real-time measurements to make sure the kite is directed into the best wind for maximum output.
The main purpose of Makani, was to make wind energy accessible to the majority, by generating up to 50% more power using 90% less materials (lowering costs). According to their website, the kite ‘operates on the same aerodynamic principles as a conventional wind turbine’. And since the kite is designed with propellers, it can continue to ‘spin’ in low wind and has even done well in hurricane-like conditions. They say ‘when the wind speed doubles, the amount of available power increases eightfold.’
The Makani would compete with large-scale wind turbines, and would require far less maintenance, transportation, and installation costs.
You can view the stats for the 600kW Makani wind energy kite system down below or on their website here:
Rated power: 600 kW
Full rated power wind speed: 11.5 m/s
Operational altitude range: 140 m – 310 m
Circling radius: 145 m
First Power Point: 4 m/s
Generation system: 8 brushless DC motors
Structure: carbon ﬁber