Alphabet announced today that it is giving up its efforts to build and monetize its Makani wind energy kites. Makani, founded in 2006, came to Google / Alphabet seven years ago as a Google X project. Last year the company spun it out of X and made it an independent alphabet unit. Now Makani's time at Alphabet has ended as "another bet". The company still hopes to work with Shell, one of its earliest partners, to find out how the technology can be used in other ways.
"After considering many factors, I believe that the path to economic viability is much longer and riskier than we hoped, and that it makes no sense for Makani to be an alphabet company," said Astro Teller. Captain of Moonshots at X and xhairman of the Makani board, in a statement. It's worth noting that Teller doesn't oversee Alphabet's other bets.
"While it's tempting to say that all climate-related ideas deserve investment, it's not just good business to have clear eyes and focus resources on where we believe we can make the most impact." It is important when it comes to an issue as pressing as the climate crisis, ”added Teller.
During his time at X / Alphabet, the team succeeded in launching a 20 kW demonstration project and expanding it to a unit that could produce up to 600 kW. Still, Alphabet clearly saw no way forward to make Makani a sustainable (and profitable) project in the long run.
“Creating a completely new kind of wind energy technology means facing both business and technical challenges,” writes Fort Felker, who took over at Makani in 2015 at X. “Despite the strong technical advances, the path to commercialization is longer and riskier than hoped for, Makani's time at Alphabet will end today. "
Back when Makani, Google, bought it for the first time I probably wouldn't have worried too much about whether this project made economic sense. However, these free-running times at Google are behind us, and at this point there is an expectation that even these forward-looking other bets will have to become independent companies in the long term.