Google-Backed Cleantech Start Up Flies Kites For Wind Energy

A kite the size of a piano, flown by a robot, that can power five American homes? That is what Google-backed cleantech start up Makani Power, according to Business Green, claims to have successfully tested recently in Maui, in the form of something akin to that of a high-altitude wind turbine.

High-altitude wind currents, according to Makani, offer the highest level of wind power per square foot (via kinetic energy) and can be harvested using inexpensive materials. The company’s vision is ambitious: to produce wind power at prices competitive with (or even less than) conventional coal-fired power. Towards that end, Makani is designing kites intended to harvest energy from wind streams at nearly 2000 feet, flown by robots, which will enable them to be kept aloft for long periods of time.

Makani Energy

Makani’s goal may cause skeptics to scoff, but there seems to be some good, hard science behind their dreams of inexpensive, high-altitude renewable energy; the company’s first round of financing netted $20 million, and their second round–expected to get their 1 MW energy-harvesting kite prototype off the ground–is expected to run until the end of the year.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.