Makani Energy Kite
A high-flying energy solution to soar above the rest

Who would have thought flying a kite could be an energy source? Well, three kite surfers had this idea back in 2006, although they quickly moved on from colourful fabrics bound to wood. Today, their idea has evolved into the Makani Energy Kite; a light-weight mechanical kite, that’s able to harness energy in crosswind flight.

This mechanical kite puts a spotlight on an interesting paradox: if we harvested wind energy at its full potential, we could power the world 100 times over. Still, only 4% of electricity worldwide comes from wind power. Sounds frustrating, right?

With its 26-meter wingspan and eight rotors, the Makani Energy Kite is designed to transfer up to 600 kilowatts of electrical power, which can power about 300 homes. Through onboard computers running custom flight controller software, the kite is able to climb to high altitudes and loop into crosswinds. From there, it flies in circular motions that the generators pick up and convert to energy. This is then transferred to the ground through a tether.

The beauty of this kite is that it explores new worlds: deepwater -- the areas further out at sea. Currently, these areas aren't economically viable for existing technologies. But, as the Makani Energy Kite is 90% lighter than a conventional deepwater offshore system, it’s hugely cost-effective. Therefore, Makani’s first commercial system will unlock a completely new and global market for wind power in offshore and mountainous regions.

More wind, more power to the people. 

Makani has also looked into how much energy there is to harvest in deepwater and how many people could benefit. They’ve found that most of the windy coastal zones have deep water, which could provide power to more than three billion people who live within 100km of coastline. This means two-thirds of the world’s windy, coastal zones have a virtually untapped source of energy.

So far, the M600 kite is still a prototype but it’s constantly improving. It’s been through hundreds of controlled experiments and the dedicated team run thousands of scenarios in flight simulation software on a regular basis. Makani is poised to seriously disrupt the energy market and eventually, could be the go-to solution where wind turbines aren't an option.

Designers: Makani - USA
UN SDGs: Affordable and clean energy & Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Makani Energy Kite from The Index Project on Vimeo. Music: Lee Rosevere