Google Blows $5M More Into Makani's High Altitude Wind

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Google.org seems to share its founders’ passion for wind sports. The philanthropic arm of the search giant has invested another $5 million into high-altitude wind startup Makani Power, PEHub reports. The money is part of a series B round that could garner more than $20 million for the Alameda, Calif.-based startup. The company had previously raised $10 million from Google in a series A round in 2006.

Not much is known about the stealthy startup, which has said it is “designing membrane structures to cover large areas of the sky,” and boasts a large amount of kite designers on its team. Founded in 2006 by Saul Griffith and former World Cup windsurfer Don Montague, the company has nearly 30 employees, many of them also kitesurfers. By putting a kite or similar structure up 5 to 10 kilometers in the air the company could tap the strong winds at high altitudes. The power of wind is related to the cube of its velocity, meaning you can get way more energy out of faster blowing wind.

One of the most attractive things about high altitude wind is its consistency. Griffith said at the Fortune Green Conference earlier this year that, while traditional wind is only 33 percent reliable, high altitude wind could provide utilities with an energy source that is 75 percent dependable, making it far more viable as a base-load energy source. While Makani has been very quiet about its “science project,” as Griffith described it to the San Francisco Chronicle, he added at the conference that the company has collected data from more than 200 test sites.

This is the third cleantech investment we’ve seen from Google.org’s Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal campaign this summer. Last month, the search engine turned cleantech investor made a play into transportation, with investments in electric car maker Aptera and battery developer ActaCell. And just last week, Google.org announced $10.25 million in geothermal energy investments.

12 Comments

George Meredith MD

Google is About to Blow Five Billion on Offshore Wind Farm Transmission Lines

When will this Wind Turbine madness stop? Listen! Each wind turbine must be subsidized $245,000 each year, every year, by some poorly informed government. England, Denmark, the Netherlands or in this case, it’s our own tax and spend government.

Wind turbines don’t work when there is too little wind. Or too much wind. Wind turbines require gas turbine backup generators, if there’s too little or too much wind. And when the wind turbines are broken, which is all too often.

Would not it be far simpler to merely place an adjustable energy import tax on all foreign energy imports? And to hell with the Saudi oil lobbyists like James Baker. An adjustable energy import tax would spur domestic production as well as domestic conservation. What could be simpler?

Google, tell us it’s not so! Tell us that you have not fallen for these wind farm/biofuels flim flam artists.

George Meredith MD
Virginia Beach

Ed Salter

Anyone who flew a kite when he or she was a kid should realize that this wont work. I understand that it is great fun to do this sort of thing if you are passionate about sail sports, and this appears to be the case at Google.org. What they need to realize is that there is a strong aspect of irresponsibility involved as well. A lot more investment capital from other sources is likely to follow Google.org’s lead and jump into this black hole, thus poisoning the well for new wind power deals that actually have some finite chance of being successful.

Joe Faust

Mr. Macnaghten,
Many are exploring scores of airborne wind energy (AWE) options. Questions are being faced. Proving systems are increasing. High and low altitude solutions are showing promise. We are gathering in a forum and evolving web for open-source energy kite systems and support closed-source operations.
EnergyKiteSystems.net Your analysis style is invited to the same.
Lift,
Joe

James Macnaghten

Because Google have invested this whole system seems to have avoided proper technical due diligence. I am a great fan of innovation, but what is proposed seems to have some fairly basic flaws. What I do not understand is why no one is asking them proper questions.

For example to generate lift you have to create drag and the last time i looked 30,000 ft of any cable (and conductor to get the power out) weighs quite a bit. Just to lift the cable before you have extracted any energy means creates drag and that means your nice kite is no longer flying vertically, but at say 45 degrees to the ground.

The company want their kites to be in the jetstream, so suddenly they need the cable to be 1.5 times longer, which means you have even more weight to keep flying. Of course as soon as you extract energy from the wind you are slowing down the wind and this creates extra drag over the bit that keeps you aloft. Lets be optimistic and say that the kite is now flying at an angle of 30 degrees to the ground at this point. If they want to stay in the jetstream their cable is now 90,000 ft (???) long. In reality most of would be on the ground.

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