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Shell and Google owner link for kite-powered floating wind

Alphabet-owned Makani aims for first demo off Norway this year as oil giant invests

Shell has joined Google parent company Alphabet to commercialise Makani ‘energy kites’ tethered to floating offshore wind platforms – with first deployment off Norway planned later this year.

Marrying the high-altitude wind energy system with small spar-buoys has the potential to take floating wind to the next stage, according to Makani, which flew a 600kW kite more than 350 metres over California in 2017.

Makani – for five years a part of Alphabet’s ‘X' technology incubator programme – will split off as a standalone venture following the Shell investment, the size of which was not disclosed.

CEO Fort Felker said: “Unlike most floating offshore wind technologies deployed at water depths greater than 50-metres, Makani’s kites don’t need to be supported by large platforms. Instead, we plan to mount Makani’s kite on a small spar buoy moored with a synthetic line and gravity anchor,” said Felker.

“This is possible because Makani’s kites are 90% lighter than turbines of a similar power rating and the overall system is smaller, replacing tons of steel with lightweight electronics and smart software, which reduces overall costs.”

Makani said it will draw “on Shell’s extensive engineering and operational expertise with floating structures to make this transition”.

What's next for offshore wind?

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Like other high-altitude wind energy systems (HAWE), Makani aims to tap into winds far stronger than those at the height of conventional on- and offshore turbines.

The Makani investment draws together two strands of Shell’s growing portfolio of renewable energy interests.

Last year it took a 33% stake in a floating wind power system designed by Stiesdal Offshore Technologies. Shell is already a backer of Kite Power Systems, another HAWE innovator.

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