Google makes big bet on ‘kite power’

Google has made yet another energy investment, acquiring a startup that makes kite-like airborne wind turbines.

Makani Power, based in Alameda, Calif., announced the acquisition on its website, one week after it conducted a test of its self-flying airborne turbine prototype. Google was already an investor in Makani.

Makani say its technology can produce the same power as conventional turbines at half the cost and with 90 percent fewer materials.

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Its turbines fly autonomously on kite-like devices that are “lightning hardened,” allowing them to produce power from stronger, more consistent winds at higher altitudes, according to the Makani website.

The technology also has the potential to play a large role in offshore wind, where there is far greater opportunity for power generation from wind than there is on land, the company said.

Though Makani has a long way to go, it said its technology would be far cheaper and possibly more productive than other forms of offshore wind turbines.

The acquisition was made by Google X, the division of the Internet search giant that invests in and develops new technology ideas, reportedly including Google Glass and self-driving cars.

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“This formalizes a long and productive relationship between our two companies, and will provide Makani with the resources to accelerate our work to make wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels,” said a statement on the Makani website.

Google has made more than $1 billion in energy investments, including a $200 million play in a Texas wind farm, as part of the company’s goals to advance a “clean energy future.”

Makani Power filmed a test of its autonomous airborne wind turbine prototype, viewable in the video below. The turbine controls its own flight in a circular motion.