High-Altitude Wind

An article I just read mentioned this concept… its the first time i’ve heard of it. Apparently Google.org (Google’s philanthropic arm) is investing $10 million into a company (Makani Power, Inc.) with a proprietary design for harnessing high altitude wind.

The idea here is that with higher altitudes come much stronger winds.


Wind also becomes much more dependable:


The upper side of these graphs, however, seems pretty ambitious. Since the tallest building in the world is about 800m, a terrestrial building wouldn’t even make it to the first tick mark. Instead, it must be some sort of massive kite or blimp.

$10 million isn’t exactly chump change… Google must really see something concrete here. Since its proprietary, no designs are disclosed on the website. Any ideas on what they could be thinking of?



I found a few concepts for kites that people have come up with.  Pretty cool stuff.. although pretty far from safe.



That first one has apparently been developed and tested successfully:


List of High Altitude Wind Companies/Concepts:



5 Responses

  1. I would imagine that they would want to put these on top of mountains. For example, Mount McKinley in Alaska (highest mountain in the US) is 6 km. The highest mountain in NJ is Kittatinny Mountain at 0.5 km. So I guess this wouldn’t work so well in NJ, but perhaps much better along the Rockies.

    If this is for mountainous regions, I would imagine that these things would have to be pretty strong and able to withstand some fierce storms. Also, how do you connect the wind turbines to the grid in such harsh climates?

  2. Thats true, I wonder if Denver is seen as an area of large wind potential because of its altitude.

  3. I doubt that every idea a company in google scales supports would really be practical. Although wind power depends on altitude, it ‘s not a uniform source of power. So, its role as an alternative source of energy can never go furthur than a supplementary. Most of the ideas behind this power circulates around kites and sails like the monster kites Dr.Muller mentioned previously. Another idea is to create a flying turbine which sends its power back to the earth through a tether. Overall, doesn’t it seem to be like a dream more than a reality ? Bettere to say,like an idea which really cannot come out of the lab to the practical world ?

  4. As for the flying tethered generator, I think it is noteworthy that high altitude tethers are currently used with balloons. One question I find more prudent is how will this generate significant amounts of power. The largest generator they are even trying to fly produces a maximum 240 kW. While this could be a lot, at that altitude it is unwise in my opinion to fly multiple generators anywhere near each other. They’re potential pivot distance from an anchored point is enormous and I hate to think what would happen if one generator clipped another’s tethering cable.

    As for whether tethers are a good idea to implement, I would like to point out again they are used extensively in our current anti-drug trafficking radar networks. Also, the military has invested lots of money into generating tethers for high altitude communications and surveillance balloons that can go as high as 100,000 feet. The most effective height was found to be about 65,000 ft.
    The most recent research I could find dates to 96, buts some declassified documents go back to 66. It implied research continued as classified since at 65000 ft. the radar platform was capable of having direct sight on an area 1.25 times the size of Texas. From what I saw, payloads of up to 3000 pounds were experimentally tested.


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