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

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.

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