Alphabet's Wind Energy Kites to Fly Offshore

Airborne wind energy company Makani has graduated from X’s experimental labs and is teaming up with offshore energy giant Shell

Renewable energy technologies seem to fill every nook and cranny of the earth. Turbines generate power on the seafloor and off coastlines. Solar panels carpet desolate deserts and abandoned wastelands. Volcanic aquifers, mountain streams, and urban sewage systems all help to produce electricity. For Makani, an airborne wind energy company, the next place to tap is roughly 300 meters in the air.

The California startup recently spun out of X—Alphabet’s experimental technology lab, or “moon shot factory”—to become an independent business within Google’s parent company. Makani is also partnering with Royal Dutch Shell in a bid to launch the startup’s high-flying kites where they haven’t flown before: offshore.

Starting this year, Makani will begin testing a floating system for one of its kites at the Metcentre, an offshore wind testing facility in southwest Norway. The kite will be tethered to a small spar buoy, which itself will be moored with a synthetic line and a gravity anchor. The goal is to operate where today’s floating wind turbines can’t go, either because it’s too challenging or cost-prohibitive to build supportive platforms.