Cash For Kites: Government Gives $10 Million to Green Pioneers

Makani kite

We’re big fans of ARPA-E, the U.S. Department of Energy program that awards grants to “moonshot” green technologies that might not otherwise have a prayer for funding. In the past, ARPA-E has given cash to companies working on everything from algae harvesting to liquid metal batteries. The latest round of grants doesn’t disappoint.

ARPA-E’s $9.6 million in funding for energy research and development projects is going to companies working on airborne wind turbines, cryogenic carbon capture, solar concentrators, nanostructured permanent magnets, membrane-based dehumidifiers, and thermal energy storage.

Google-backed Makani Power is getting the most funding ($3 million) for its airborne wind turbine, which converts wind energy into electricity using tethered wings outfitted with turbines. In other words, Makani is using kites to generate energy. The company is currently working on its first 1 MW turbine kite, which is expected to be finished in a year and a half. After that, the kite will undergo a year and a half of testing before hitting the market.

Another big winner in this round of funding is GE Global Research, which received $2,249,980 for research on transformational nanostructured permanent magnets. According to ARPA-E, these next-generation magnets could “increase the efficiency and power density of electric machines while reducing raw material cost” and “enable further market penetration of hybrid vehicles and wind turbine generators, while enhancing US competitiveness in rare‐earth mineral based products.”

Useful stuff, to be sure, but we’d still wager that Makani’s kite turbines will have the biggest impact out of this round of funding recipients.

Check out the full list here.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS