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Monday, 18 February 2019

Could a partnership between Shell and Alphabet be the key to commercializing wind technology?

Could a partnership between Shell and Alphabet be the key to commercializing airborne turbine technology? Shell’s minority investment of an undisclosed sum in Makani Power, an experimental wind power project acquired by Google parent company Alphabet six years ago, is part of a comprehensive diversification strategy for the oil and gas giant, according to the FT. Makani is working to develop electricity-generating kites, and has a prototype that is fixed to land, floating some 1,000 ft above the ground. Now it will be able to use Shell’s expertise in offshore developments to set up kites in water more than 50 meters deep, where the winds are stronger.

Unanswered questions: Despite the financial backing, success is by no means assured. Harvesting power from airborne wind turbines has long been a goal of the sector, but many promising initiatives have generated more tech excitement than they have sustainable revenue or power. Wind energy systems researcher Antonello Cherubini sounds a warning note against investing too much hope in Makani. Airborne turbines require considerable time and money to develop, a major challenge to making the technology commercially-viable. “I wish that this could make a difference, but there is no reason to think that this is the one,” he said.

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