Remember flying a kite as a child? At times, it could almost pull you over. Corwin Hardham, CEO of MAKANI POWER, wants to harness that power for an alternative wind turbine. Hardham's team at MAKANI POWER created the Makani Airborne Wind Turbine, an energy absorbing kite.
The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine would hold the same purpose of a traditional tower turbine, energy generation. The kite is designed to withstand the force of the wind, and follow the same arc of a traditional turbine blade. The airborne turbine has the same rated power, but has twice the consistently of the best wind turbine operating today.
The company stated the airborne turbine will weigh just a tenth, and cost half the price, of a normal tower turbine. A traditional 1-megawatt wind turbine can exceed 100 tons; where Makani’s turbine weight is significantly lighter while still providing the same power output. The turbine gets its advantage from a carbon-fiber wing and a lightweight motor.
The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine’s motorized fixed-wing gliders circle a circumference of 26 feet. When at 1,000 feet and traveling 150 miles per hour, the turbine creates resistances against the high altitude winds which spin the small propeller blades along its chassis. While at flight, it is constantly streaming electricity to the grid connection strapped to the ground.
What about days with little wind? The glider will draw power from the grid to keep it airborne. If enough time of no wind passes, the kite will be reeled in for deployment in more favorable conditions. The small propellers create a loud buzzing sound, which the team is currently focused on eliminating.
In the end, the Makani Turbine's power output costs 3 cents per kilowatt hour, which is on par with today's modern wind farms. However, when factoring in the initial cost of the device and installation, the Makani Turbine comes out on top.
The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine not only won this year’s Breakthrough Award in energy from Popular Mechanics, it also received a $3 million dollar grant from Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, in addition to, $20 million in venture capital funding from Google. In 2013, Makani Power plans to launch a prototype of the new design and become commercialized by 2015.