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Printed below is an English translation of an article published today by the Dutch Financial Times, Financieele Dagblad.


Shell invests money in Google’s energy flyer

Makani prototype system at a test location in Hawaii. Photo: Makani

Bert van Dijk

ShellRDSA € 27.98 + 0.65% has taken an interest in Makani, a start-up of Google parent company Alphabet, which has developed a kite with which electricity can be produced. That is what Makani CEO Fort Felker announced on Tuesday. Makani is now being further developed as an independent company outside Alphabet.

The investment is made by Shell New Energies, Shell’s business unit that deals with new forms of energy, such as wind and solar energy. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

Great ambition

“Shell has great ambitions to expand renewable energy activities and we see great potential in floating offshore wind technology,” said Dorine Bosman, vice president Shell Wind Development in a press statement. According to Shell, Shell wants to further develop and test the energy-flyer technology together with Makani at sea.

It is Shell’s second investment in a company that can generate electricity using kite technology. Previously Shell already invested money in the Scottish Kite Power Systems through its investment arm Shell Ventures. Makani has developed a lightweight wing with eight propellers attached. The kite is released via a cable, after which it flies in circles in the air. Electricity is generated here, which is led back to the ground via the cable.

Span of 26 meters

Due to the light weight of the system, the wing, which has a span of 26 meters, can produce electricity in hard-to-reach places on land and at sea, where it is too expensive for conventional wind turbines. The kite does not need a large platform or foundation at sea, but is kept in place with anchors.

The system has a capacity of 600 kilowatts. This is still limited compared to a regular wind turbine.

Now further develop together with Shell offshore

‘Hundreds of millions of people live within 25 miles of the coast, where the wind is stable and strong, but two-thirds of the coastal waters in the world are too deep for today’s wind turbines to produce electricity there’, Felker writes in a blog. ‘Makani can make a contribution here, we think.’

Makani has developed the technology for onshore in the last ten years and now wants to develop and test the technology at sea together with Shell. That will initially happen in Norway.

Set of investments in green startups

Shell’s investment in Makani is the umpteenth of the oil and gas multinational in a series of investments in ‘green’ startups.

For the time being, relatively small amounts are involved each year compared to the tens of billions that Shell invests in oil and gas activities, but the company has expressed the ambition to double its investments in new forms of energy to $ 4 billion per year.

The fact that Shell Ventures was housed a few years ago in the new New Energies division underlines that the focus is on looking for companies and technologies that can lead Shell into the future. By investing millions in state-of-the-art start-up technology, Shell can learn, keep in touch with the market and test new revenue models.

Last week Shell participated in a second investment round of more than half a billion dollars in the American Aurora, which develops technologies for self-driving cars.


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