Makani (company)

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Makani Technologies LLC
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryWind power
Defunct19 February 2020 (2020-02-19)
Key people
Saul Griffith, Corwin Hardham, Donald Montague, Damon Vander Lind
Number of employees
ParentAlphabet Inc.

Makani Technologies LLC was an Alameda, California-based company that developed airborne wind turbines.[1] Founded in 2006, Makani was acquired by Google in May 2013. In February 2020, Makani was shut down by Alphabet, Google's parent company.


Makani was founded in 2006 by Saul Griffith, Don Montague, and Corwin Hardham.[2] It received funding as part of's Renewable Energy cheaper than Coal (RE<C) initiative.[3] "Makani" is Hawaiian for "wind."[4] Corwin Hardham died in 2012 at age 38.[5] On 23 May 2013, Makani Power was acquired by Google and was folded into Google X.[6] In 2015, Fort Felker, former director of the National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was hired as CEO.[7]

In December 2016, Makani operated for the first time a 600 kW prototype with 28 meter wing span.[8][9]

Starting August 2018, Makani operated an energy kite test site on the Big Island of Hawaii.[10]

In February 2019, Makani was separated from X and made into a subsidiary of Alphabet. At the same time, Royal Dutch Shell made a minority investment in Makani and began a partnership with the company to develop its business.[11]

In 2019 the offshore energy kite was lost during testing. Investigation and reporting on the technical details of the mishap was undertaken. The wing did not successfully land on the platform resulting in the loss of the energy kite.[12][13]

In February 2020, Alphabet shut down Makani. The company said "Despite strong technical progress, the road to commercialization is longer and riskier than hoped."[14] In September 2020, Makani released the Energy Kite Collection — a three-part report and accompanying collection of open source code repositories, flight logs and technical videos from the project. It also released Pulling Power from the Sky: The Story of Makani, a documentary on the project, and made a non-assertion pledge on its patent portfolio, allowing anyone to use its patents without fear of legal reprisal.[15][16]


In order to meet its goal of producing low-cost renewable energy, the Makani kite-energy system used autonomous tethered wings which flew in a circular path and generated electricity via wind turbines mounted upon the main wing, a method known as crosswind kite power, originally envisioned by Miles Loyd in a 1980 paper. Loyd stated that for large scale purposes flying the generators was expected to be disfavored because of the need to fly the mass of the generators;[17] many of Makani Power competitors have generators kept on the ground, like KiteGen, Italy.[18] The electricity is generated on the ground in the tether, utilising tension in the cable connected to the kite.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kirsner, Scott (17 April 2011). "A generator that's lighter than air — and relatively light on the wallet". The Boston Globe.
  2. ^ "Company History". Archived from the original on 14 March 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  3. ^ Miller, Gregory. "Investing in a cleaner energy revolution". The Official Blog. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007.
  4. ^ Wagner, Eric (7 December 2012). "High-altitude Wind Power". Conservation. University of Washington. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  5. ^ Levaux, Janet (26 October 2012). "Makani Power's Corwin Hardham Dies; Service Scheduled". Alameda Journal Blog. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "Google acquires kite-power generator". BBC News. 23 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Dr. Fort Felker profile on Makani web page". Archived from the original on 4 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Makani's first commercial-scale energy kite". YouTube. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  9. ^ Felker, Fort (5 October 2017). Progress and Challenges in Airborne Wind Energy. Airborne Wind Energy Conference 2017. Freiburg, Germany: University of Freiburg.
  10. ^ Landry, Fuller (27 August 2018). "Ride like the wind: Makani energy kite test flights in the works, lift off later this year". West Hawaii Today. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  11. ^ Waters, Richard; Hook, Leslie (13 February 2019). "Shell joins Alphabet in power-generating kites plan". Financial Times. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  12. ^ Felker, Fort (15 August 2019). "Makani's airborne wind power system takes flight offshore". Medium. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Makani tests energy kite". 4c Offshore. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  14. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (19 February 2020). "Alphabet takes the wind out of its Makani energy kites". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 18 December 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  15. ^ Anderson, Mark (15 September 2020). "Exclusive: Airborne Wind Energy Company Closes Shop, Opens Patents". IEEE Spectrum. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  16. ^ Echeverri, Paula (10 September 2020). "Sharing Makani with the world: The Energy Kite Collection". Medium. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  17. ^ Miles Loyd, 1980: (pdf)
  18. ^ AWES Museum || KiteGen
  19. ^ Harper, Ben (21 March 2011). "Start-ups are devising kites to turn wind power into a cheap source of power". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 July 2011.

External links[edit]