Makani Airborne Wind Energy Turbine (AWT) hasn’t been in the news lately. They arrived in a flurry of press in 2013 as the next big thing from Google. The device is a powered kite tethered to the ground or in this new application to a ship.
In its previous incarnation, Makani was touted as a tethered wind turbine to generate electricity from higher winds aloft. As in all such inventions, the hype was high, experience low or non-existent.
Now we see that Google is billing Makani, via the patent application, as a towing kite. This is quite a comedown from the days when Makani Energy Kite was going to replace conventional wind turbines.
Towing kites for ship propulsion are nothing new and Makani will face stiff competition from companies already operating in this space, such as SkySails.
In the chapter on novel wind turbines in my new book, Wind Energy for the Rest of Us, I single out towing kites as one of the few applications where novel wind turbines could be beneficial. I’ve been critical of Google’s investments in renewable energy and particularly in Makani. It’s good to see that they’ve concluded that their powered kite is best suited for towing ships at sea and not as a wind turbine trying to compete with existing wind turbines.
Google applies for wind-assisted propulsion patent