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Google X 'moonshots lab' buys flying wind turbine company Makani Power

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Google X, the secretive division dedicated to futuristic long-shot projects, is making a new acquisition: Makani Power, a company that develops autonomous airborne wind turbines it believes could provide "kite power." Bloomberg Businessweek first reported the news in a longer piece on Google X, saying the deal was in the process of closing for an unknown amount. According to Bloomberg, Page approved the deal — but only if the team would crash five turbines in the near future. Makani has officially confirmed the deal on its website, and Google has been a longtime investor, backing Makani as early as 2007. Now, the company is one of the only known acquisitions by Google's moonshot wing.

Relatively little is known about what goes on in Google X, but the division is responsible for two of Google's most-hyped projects: the self-driving car and Project Glass. It was built to create a place free from both the restraints of academia and the commercial pressure of business, targeting futuristic and world-changing goals. "Google X is very consciously looking at things that Google in its right mind wouldn't do," says team member Richard DeVaul. Some of those ideas, like Glass, could eventually become consumer products: the original prototype apparently weighed ten pounds, with cables connecting to a belt clip. Now, it's not too much larger than an ordinary pair of glasses, and the first units are in the hands of selected "Explorers." But much wilder-sounding ideas, including "levitation and teleportation," have also been discussed.

Makani Power, meanwhile, recently completed tests of its 26-foot-long Wing 7 turbine prototype, which can fly in circles at between 800 and 2,000 feet up generating electricity from four propellers. Chief engineer Damon Vander Lind says that a working large-scale version could transform power: "If we're successful, we can get rid of a huge part of the fossil fuels we use." The Wing 7 is meant to be more versatile than stationary wind turbines, catching wind at high altitudes or offshore while requiring far less material to build.