May 24, 2013, 11:37 AM — Google recently acquired bay area Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) start-up Makani Power. The company will be subsumed into Sergey Brin's secretive Bond villain research facility, Google [X], the same lab responsible for Google's self-driving car and the internet-on-your-face Glass technology.
A message on the Makani website reads "We are happy to announce that Makani Power is being acquired by Google. 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."
The "long and productive relationship" references the fact that the seven-year old Makani Power was originally seeded by Google's alternative energy RE initiative. The goal of making "wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels" references the company's unique and potentially gamechanging take on harnessing wind power.
Sky Turbines and the World of Tomorrow
Makani claims they have developed a technology that can produce far more wind energy than traditional turbines by launching them skyward. The company utilizes a kind of tethered revolving kite that can transmit power back down to the grid.
The completely autonomous AWT resembles a glider, but launches and lands like a helicopter as the same on-wing turbine that transforms wind energy into electricity can also be used to create thrust. The end result is a comparatively cheap and completely unmanned wind turbine that can be deployed in wind-rich areas unavailable to traditional terrestrial turbines such as over deep ocean waters or at high altitudes.
According to Makani's website, the company's AWTs will be able to create more energy than traditional turbines because they can can harness energy at low wind speeds more efficiently than terrestrial set-ups and can be deployed to more locations.
The acquisition first came to light in a fascinating Businessweek look inside Google [x] and its numerous moonshot projects. On a more depressing note, those (such as myself) who may harbor visions of Makani's high-altitude power transmission tech being incorporated into the long-rumored [x] space elevator project, prepare for disappointment: according to the Businessweek profile, there is never has been a Google [x] space elevator in the works.