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United States

Google parent drops kite-power pioneer Makani

Google parent company Alphabet has dropped kite-based wind-power systems developer Makani from its new technology investment platform X, explaining it was too slow and risky to reach commercialisation.

Makani ran the first demonstration flights of its 600kW carbon-tether kite from a floating platform off the coast of Norway last year
Makani ran the first demonstration flights of its 600kW carbon-tether kite from a floating platform off the coast of Norway last year

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Investor Royal Dutch Shell is “exploring options” to continue developing Makani’s technology, the oil and gas giant stated, but would not confirm what these options include.

Astro Teller, X CEO and Makani chairman, said: “After considering many factors, I believe that the road to commercial viability is a much longer and riskier road than we’d hoped and that it no longer makes sense for Makani to be an Alphabet company.

Makani had been part of X — the new technology investment arm of Google’s Alphabet conglomerate — since 2013

It left the platform in 2019, establishing itself as an independent company with backing from oil and gas giant Shell. That year, it ran the first demonstration flights of its 600kW carbon-tether kite from a floating platform off the coast of Norway.

But it conceded further trials were needed before it focused on reducing the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) and making the technology commercially viable.

In a blog post, Makani CEO Fort Felker, wrote: “This doesn’t mean the end of the road for the technology Makani developed, but it does mean that Makani will no longer be an Alphabet company.”

Dorine Bosman, vice president of Shell’s wind development unit, said: “The combination of airborne and floating wind offers innovative solutions to some of the challenges faced in scaling up.

“We collaborated with Makani to utilise our offshore operational experience to deploy and test its energy-kite technology from a floating platform.

“We believe that Makani remains one od the leading airborne-wind technologies in the world and we are exploring options to continue developing the technology within our New Energies strategy.”

Shell's New Energies division "focuses on new fuels and power", including wind power, solar, and electric vehicle charging, according to its website.

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