Makani which began with the idea of creating a commercial-scale prototype kite from a proof-of-concept kite for harnessing wind power has indeed come a long way since joining the Moonshot Factory in 2013. After five years of development at X, Makani is now an independent company and is partnering with Shell to bring energy kites to offshore environments.
With the aim of advancing the global adoption of renewable energy by creating kites that efficiently harness energy from the wind Makani decided to experiment using the hitherto untapped technological potential of using strong and steady wind within 25 miles of a coastline to produce energy. These strong winds mostly remain unaccessed due to proximity with deep waters therefore remained ignored and were thought to be economically non-viable.
Makani’s energy kites have an enhanced access to new offshore wind areas and complement the expansion of the wind industry ecosystem. Makani’s kites don’t need to be supported by large platforms like conventional floating offshore wind technologies deployed at water depths greater than 50 meters. Instead, Makani’s kites are mounted on a small spar buoy moored with a synthetic line and gravity anchor. Makani’s kites being 90% lighter than turbines of a similar power rating and with an overall smaller system are successful in replacing tons of steel with lightweight electronics and smart software, which also reduces overall costs.
Adapting Makani’s energy kite technology to offshore environments is an exciting technical challenge that will draw from Shell’s extensive engineering and operational expertise with floating structures. Makani plans to kick start testing of this new floating offshore system with demonstrations in Norway later this year, and are working on developing additional partnerships in order to commercialize the system.
With more than a decade of developing the energy kite technology on land, Makani is now partnering with Shell to commercialize their technology at offshore environments. Makani will move on from the Moonshot Factory to become an independent business within Alphabet. As a result of its steady journey of prototyping, testing, and iterating the original kite design has tripled in size and is capable of generating 30 times more power from its initial days at X. It has transformed from a fledgling idea into a viable system capable of generating electricity to power hundreds of homes. Makani is now focused on refining the system on a commercial scale.
While continuing work on the kite trials to be held at Norway, Makani plans to continue demonstrating their energy kite system and learn from ongoing flights at their test site in Hawai’i. Makani says they are excited about the upcoming phase and are looking forward to continue working towards a future to make clean, affordable wind power easily accessible to more people.