Shell invests in kite-power pioneer Makani

A leading developer of kite-based wind-power systems, Makani, has been set up as an independent company with backing from oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell.

Under Google's X, Makani said its kite design had tripled in size

Makani has been part of X — an investor in new technologies and part of Google’s Alphabet conglomerate — since 2013.

However it has now been established as a stand-alone company under Alphabet, supported by Shell in an undisclosed deal.

Makani said under X, it had developed its kite system from a proof of concept model to a commercial-scale prototype.

The design has tripled in size, and "is capable of generating 30 times more power than the design we had when we joined X", the company announced in a blog post by CEO Fort Felker.

The move away from X is seen as a step towards commercialisation, and Makani wants to develop the concept for offshore deployment, "drawing on Shell’s extensive engineering and operational expertise with floating structures to make this transition".

"We plan to kick off testing of this new floating offshore system with demonstrations in Norway later this year," Felker added. 

It is not the first time Shell has invested in a kite-based wind power generation project. It also backed the UK-based Kite Power Systems (KPS) with €6 million of funding in 2016.