29 January 2013

Power Circle

Written by Published in Technology

The 'Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award' honors innovators whose work will change the future. Corwin Hardham, Kenny Jensen and Damon Vander Lind are the brains behind a turbine that, with the force of billowing wind, lifts thousands of feet off the ground to generate power

Founded in 2006 in Alameda, California, by Saul Griffith Don Montague and late CEO Corwin Hardham, Makani has evolved from a corporation that once produced soft textile kites that can power a generator to high-performance to self-generated Airborne Wind Turbines. Although traditional wind turbines are sustainable, by exchanging their colossal towers with a wing that both generates power and keeps itself aloft in the steadier high-altitude winds, Makani looks to fast-forward into the future with a more sophisticated turbine.Their goal is to make wind energy cheaper than coal and to create a home for airborne turbines in offshore wind farms sooner than later.

As a part of the green energy initiative as well as the recipient of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project grant, Makani Power’s accomplishments include high speed, autonomous flight, power generation and fully autonomous flight.

When it comes to inspiration, Control system Engineer, Dr. Kenny Jensen, explains that although it’s uneasy to predict the future in the next 50 years, there are some signs that are obvious, ‘Energy isn't getting any cheaper, and we are eventually going to run out of fossil fuels. On the positive side, computing power is dirt cheap now, and rapid manufacturing tools are enabling small groups of people to accomplish remarkable things. These trends inspire a lot of what we're trying to accomplish.’

So where does one originate with the passion and idea to work in a company that fuses sustainability and Airborne Wind Turbines? Dr. Jensen, the Controller Systems Team Lead at Makani says his passion for airplanes emanated from elementary school. His childhood consisted of memorizing the names of the maximum flight speeds of everything from F-14’s to SR-71 Blackbirds, while enthusiastically rummaging through the Encyclopedia of airplane. But it wasn’t till he graduated with degrees from MIT and U.C. Berkley, that he discovered his love for physics which eventually led him to his interest in energy as a working physicist specialising the development of sensing technologies at Makani Power.

Aside from being a dedicated engineer, producing massive Airborne Wind Turbines for  a more sustainable, one thing’s for sure, for Dr.Jensen, there is no limit to what he can build, as his fiancé can attest to, when he popped the question with a self-designed and engineered engagement ring; a match made in an engineer’s heaven!


The entire Makani Team

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