On February 12, Royal Dutch Shell confirmed it had invested in an Alphabet venture that makes electricity-generating kites. Makani Power – part of Alphabet’s X research lab – will use the investment to become independent from the tech giant, following in the footsteps of Loon and Wing to become a freestanding subsidiary.
Alphabet did not disclose the size of Shell’s minority investment, instead stating the arrangement would establish a partnership between the two businesses. Shell, meanwhile, said the agreement would help the company develop its offshore wind business. As the energy giant looks to wean itself off fossil fuels, it has increasingly committed to investing in sustainable energy to meet its climate targets.
Alphabet is keen for its X projects to move on from its prototyping lab and develop into independent companies
At present, Makani Power’s prototype is tethered to the ground and floats roughly 1,000ft in the air, with its rotor keeping the kite in the sky while also generating power. With the Shell investment, the company can develop a kite suitable for operation in coastal waters, where winds are much stronger.
If successful, Makani’s kites will provide companies with the upper hand in offshore developments as its kites could be attached to floating buoys, rather than the ocean platforms required by wind turbines, saving time and money.
Alphabet is keen for its X projects to move on from its prototyping lab and develop into independent companies. With Makani Power blossoming, Alphabet can look towards future projects in glass, robotics and optics.
Shell has made other investments in similar projects, for example, British start-up Kite Power Systems. While various wind energy start-ups have failed to find success, Shell will be hoping that its investment can help buck the trend.