In 1752, Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning has large amounts of electricity while flying a kite. Based on this discovery, he later invented the Lightning Rod.
A kite that led to the discovery of electricity is now proving that it can harness the power in the wind to generate electricity!
Makani Power, a startup in US, that has now been bought by GOOGLE [X], is trying to crack energy-generation problems with self-piloting flying wings tethered to a base station like a kite. They take off like helicopters using rotors that become electrical power generators when the wing reaches an altitude of somewhere between 800 and 2,000 feet, where winds are stronger and more consistent.
The wing flies in vertical circles like a kite can; the looping flight pattern is somewhat like the arc traced by tip of a conventional wind turbine. When wind speeds drop, the wing goes back into a hover mode and returns to its base station.
Makani’s Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) can create inexpensive energy, in more locations than traditional wind turbines, because it flies where the wind is stronger and more consistent.
HOW DOES IT WORK
The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) is a tethered wing outfitted with turbines. It flies between 250 and 600 meters (800 and 1,950 feet), where the wind is stronger and more consistent. Makani is developing a 600 kW AWT, for utility scale generation at a cost below conventional solar and wind.
The Makani AWT operates like a wind turbine. Air moving across the turbine blades forces them to rotate, driving a generator to produce electricity.
Due to its speed, the tip of a conventional wind turbine blade is the most effective part and is responsible for most of the energy produced. The Makani AWT takes advantage of this principle by mounting small turbine/generator pairs on a wing that itself acts like the tip of a traditional turbine blade. The wing flies across the wind in vertical circles, fixed to the ground by a flexible tether.
Low Cost — 50% less expensive
The improved low wind performance and reduced material intensity of the Makani AWT lowers the cost of energy by up to 50% at most on and offshore locations.
High Performance — 50% more energy
The entire span of the Makani AWT operates at the tip speed of a conventional turbine giving it better low wind performance. This means it delivers approximately 50% more energy than a conventional turbine of the same rated power, and that the energy is delivered more consistently.
Scalable — 10% of the mass
By virtue of the tensile design and the absence of a tower, hub, nacelle, or gearbox, the AWT is less than 10% of the mass of a conventional turbine and a fraction of the size. This reduces manufacture, transportation and installation costs along with reducing the infrastructure required for on-site maintenance.
Abundant — 4x the available onshore resource
The AWT can access strong winds in more locations because of its flight altitude. In the continental United States alone the AWT can economically access 69% of the landmass, this is over four times the area available to conventional wind.
Globally, the best wind resources are offshore, much of it in water too deep for conventional turbines to economically access. The offshore resource in the U.S. alone is estimated to be more than 4 TW, with over 75% located in water over 30 meters deep. The lightweight floating foundation of the Makani AWT can cost effectively access intermediate depths between 30-90 meters and extend into deeper waters.
See it in action
To know more on it’s technical specifications, click here
WHAT IS GOOGLE X
Google X is the search giant’s factory for moonshots, those million-to-one scientific bets that require generous amounts of capital, massive leaps of faith, and a willingness to break things. Google X is home to the self-driving car initiative and the Internet-connected eyeglasses, Google Glass, among other improbable projects.