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Alphabet pulls support for Makani wind kites, Shell might continue development

Since Sundar Pichai’s appointment to Alphabet CEO last December, there have been a number of high-level changes. The latest sees the parent company today pull support for offshore wind kites developed by former X project Makani.

An attempt to replace large turbines with wind kites, Makani graduated from X last February to become an independent Alphabet company focused on commercializing this new approach to wind energy.

Since 2013, the project has been iterating on giant glider-like kites that are tethered to ground stations and fly autonomously in loops. Propellers on the vehicle generate electricity that get transferred via the tether.

It started as a demonstrator kite that created 20kW of energy to a utility-scale kite capable of generating 600kW. Makani has recently been working on a system that operates from a floating platform off the coast of Norway.

Today’s development sees “Makani’s time at Alphabet is coming to an end.” However, Shell — which has been supporting the effort for the past year — might possibly continue development with the technology.

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. Shell is exploring options to continue developing Makani’s technology.

Makani today cited business and engineering challenges, with Alphabet having dropped support due to the road to commercialization being “longer and riskier than hoped.”

Developing energy kites is an incredibly hard problem, and our progress has been possible thanks to the Makani team, whose creativity, passion and drive are matched by their technical depth and breadth. I am grateful to have been a part of the team, and proud of what Makani has accomplished.

For Alphabet, Makani becomes the third renewable energy project to no longer be directly affiliated following Malta’s work on salt-based energy storage and geothermal heating/cooling startup Dandelion Energy.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: