Does Infinity in the Sky Mean Limitless Energy?

By Rebecca Horne | May 25, 2010 12:20 pm

I got pretty excited when Makani Power staff photographer Andrea Dunlap showed me this photograph. For my purposes, it doesn’t get much better than this: sustainable energy, technology, the future, all rolled into a beautiful photograph. Pick up our June issue for a gander at the double-page spread.

This photograph is 30-second exposure taken during a test of a 10-kilowatt-scale prototype of an airborne wind turbine in Maui, Hawaii. The mobile turbine has a span of about 16 feet and is tethered to the ground using a long, flexible cable. A computer controls the flight pattern. These tests show that a flying generator can sweep through a bigger wind window than a traditional turbine, and without the massive supporting towers. Makani Power plans to have a functional megawatt version of the tethered turbine ready by 2011. Makani Power is partially funded by as a potential source of renewable energy. Google’s server farms and the Internet in general have ever increasing demands for power, which is in turn burning ever more coal.

Photograph courtesy Makani Power

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Tech
  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Does Infinity in the Sky Mean Limitless Energy? | Visual Science | Discover Magazine --

  • Tommy

    IT’S NOT SAFE FOR WILDLIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lamar Havard

    What’s not safe, Tommy, this particular model, or wind generators in general? And explain just how they aren’t safe. Don’t post a PITA type talking point without facts and figures, it makes you sound dumber than you actually are.

    I say anything to cut dependence on the present energy sources is just fine with me. If a bird can’t avoid a giant blade moving that slow, maybe it’s best that he DOESN’T contribute to the gene pool.

  • Robert Stevens

    w0w, amazing – at first I thought maybe it was photoshop. Interesting idea. hmm – maybe a problem if any wildlife around.

  • Yumfy

    Wow, looks promising. Would like to learn more.

  • Uncle Al

    What kind of “long flexible cable” conducts megawatts? As the generator cannot be grounded, yer gonna need two conductors. High amps won’t do it unless superconducting. An ultra-high voltage spike extending 30 stories high invites… adventures.

  • Sean

    I wonder how far this thing will fly if the cable snaps… sorry neighbor!

  • Enviro Girl

    I would be concerned this type of technology might cause collisions with migratory birds and bats. Ten kilowatts of energy is very small amount of energy and I assume a large scale project producing 100+ megawatts could have a relatively large “airborne” footprint. While a span of 16 feet is small on a prototypical level, a sky full of these would cover a much larger area and could create something impenetrable to our friends in the sky.

  • Pingback: Renewable Energy Guide()

  • Jsson

    Wow … looks amazing! But is not safe for wildlife!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Visual Science

Science stories, beautifully told.

About Rebecca Horne

Rebecca Horne ( is an artist, multi-platform freelance writer, and award-winning photography director. She launched Visual Science for in March 2010. She also writes about science and photography for The WallStreet Journal. You can reach her at


See More

Collapse bottom bar