How to Make a Wind Turbine That Flies

Last week, we met Corwin Hardham, the CEO of Makani Windpower, which is at work on a revolutionary airborne wind turbine. This week, I want you to actually see how the turbine works. Below, you'll find the final two installments of my interview with Hardham and some shots of the actual wing, as they call it.

In the first video, Hardham describes the "transformational" turbine, but I think it's worth retracing how far they've come from the original vision. Makani was founded by windsurfers, so their initial designs were modeled on the kites that they knew. They had soft bodies and were very, very light. But as they got farther along the innovation path, they found that a rigid body wing was the only way that they could generate consistent power. So, instead of making a kite, they essentially had to build a plane. But that plane had to be able to do vertical takeoffs and landings all by itself, like a drone.

But Makani's team stuck with it because, as you see in the final segment of my interview with Hardham, they believe they have two key advantages in the long renewable energy future. First, their wing takes far less material than do traditional wind turbines. That means they have a hedge against materials costs in a world that could experience constraints in future years. Second, their wing could be deployed more easily and cheaper in offshore installations, allowing humanity to tap the terawatts of wind energy that blow off our shores.

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