May 23, 2013
Google Research And Development Arm Acquires Wind Generator Firm
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Google is looking to take flight. On Thursday the search giant, through its secretive Google X division — which is responsible for research and development — acquired Makani Power. Google had previously invested $15 million in the company that develops autonomous airborne wind turbines.The acquisition comes a week after Makani Power carried out its first fully autonomous flights of robot kites bearing power generating propellers. This deal will allow Makani to continue to experiment with its flying wings technology that could serve as an alternative to fixed wind turbines to generate power.
“This formalizes a long and productive relationship between our two companies, and will provide Makani with the resources to accelerate our work to make wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels. The timing couldn´t be better, as we completed the first ever autonomous all-modes flight with our Wing 7 prototype last week,” the company posted on its Website. “Makani could not have reached this point without the support of the US Department of Energy´s ARPA-E program and the hard work of our talented team, past and present. We look forward to working with our new colleagues at Google[x] to make airborne wind a cost-effective reality.”
Last week´s test flights involved Makani Power´s 26-foot-long Wing 7 turbine prototype, which can reportedly fly in circles at between 800 and 2,000 feet up, while generating electricity from its four propellers. The tethered wings fly in large circles and use about 90-percent less material than a traditional turbine, while it can produce 30kW of power.
Fully working models could be much larger and could launch, hover, generate power and even land with little or no human intervention, and could be able to generate 600 kW of power. The power generated could be transmitted to the ground via the conducting core of the tether. The result could make the flying wings cost competitive with off-shore wind farms.
Google had first invested $10 million in the Alameda, Calif.-based Makani Power in 2006, and another $5 million in 2008. According to TechCrunch, “this also marks the first time Google has acquired a company specifically for its Google X skunkworks.”
Google confirmed the acquisition on Thursday.
“Creating clean energy is one of the most pressing issues facing the world, and Google for years has been interested in helping to solve this problem,” Astro Teller, Google X´s ℠Captain of Moonshots,´ told TechCrunch in a statement. “Makani Power´s technology has opened the door to a radical new approach to wind energy. They´ve turned a technology that today involves hundreds of tons of steel and precious open space into a problem that can be solved with really intelligent software. We´re looking forward to bringing them into Google[x].”
The Google X labs is reportedly the company´s think tank for more outlandish and even quirky projects, and as such separates these projects from the mainstream work at Google. The Google X team, which is overseen by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, has reportedly been working on a self-driving car initiative, a neural network, and was responsible for early work on the Google Glass head-mounted display technology.