Makani energy kite is a smarter wind turbine

Makani's energy kite is an airborne wind turbine that aims to generate more energy using less materials.

I’m standing right in front of the energy kite from Makani. It is a division of Google X and they are trying to create a low cost, wind energy generation system.

The Makani energy kite is part helicopter, part wind turbine. It’s launched from a ground station using its rotors like helicopter blades until it reaches a desired altitude. Once airborne, air moving across the aircraft’s rotors drives a generator to produce electricity, which then travels to the ground along a flexible tether.

The kite’s flight path is closely tracked by a computer system, which, along with the use of GPS and other sensors, adjusts the craft’s path to take advantage of the strongest and most consistent winds.

Behind all this advanced technology lies a simple idea: harnessing greater wind power while using less materials at lower costs. But how do you do this?

First, the kite’s tether allows it to reach higher altitudes with stronger, more consistent winds than conventional turbines. According to Makani, this means the craft can produce 50% more energy while using 90% fewer materials. Second, the kite’s compact design means it can be used in areas not suitable for conventional turbines. And lastly, the craft is cost effective since installation, transportation, and maintenance is quite easy.

Makani’s energy kite sounds like a lofty idea, but don’t expect it to be powering your home anytime soon.

The next prototype is called the M600 and will produce 600 kilowatts of power. Now all of these vehicles are still being tested and are not commercially available.