Makani Power believes the sky's the limit. Why take-up valuable real estate and annoy the NIMBYs when you can set a wing in motion 400 meters up and over the coastline? Tether it with a power cord and let some rotors spin in the high wind and you can be producing electricity more efficiently and at maybe half the cost of a conventional wind turbine.
Think this can't possibly be a reliable addition to the grid? Corwin Hardham, CEO of Makani Power thinks differently: “It has GPS onboard as well as a host of other sensors that enable it to measure its angle, orientation, and several other streams of data and using that data it is able to predict where it should fly to make the most energy, how to make it fly most reliably, so it uses the minimal amount of effort on its servos and also take off and land. It does not need nor do we ever plan to actually interact with something on the ground.
Sounds plausible to me. I like that Hardham came-up with the idea while kite-surfing in San Francisco Bay. Seriously, how many ideas for start-ups get dreamnt-up while sitting in an office somewheres? Creativity usually needs a juxtaposition of thought and activity outside of the mundane, but I digress.
So far their prototype is only 8 meters long and produces a lightweight 20 kW of power but their next wing will be three times larger and capable of producing 600 kW. Their eventual goal is to get up to five mW output.
Here's a TED Talk by Saul Griffith, president and chief scientist at Makani Power: