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Airborne Wind Power Pioneer Corwin Hardham Dies at 38

Makani Power is among leaders of a new wind industry that is ready to take off

1 min read
Airborne Wind Power Pioneer Corwin Hardham Dies at 38

Corwin Hardham, founder and CEO of airborne wind energy company Makani Power, died unexpectedly this week at age 38.

I met Hardham in early September this year, at the Airborne Wind Energy Consortium (AWEC) conference in Hampton, Virginia, for a story I wrote for Yale Environment 360. He was very obviously among the leaders in the room; in an increasingly crowded field, his company's airborne system is probably closest to industrial-scale deployment, with tens of millions of dollars in backing from Google and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). When I spoke with Hardham, he was thoughtful and confident, and expressed strong belief that airborne wind power is ready to take off.

The Makani system, the design and engineering for which Hardham is primarily responsible, involves a rigid wing with on-board turbines and generators. The wing flies in vertical circles and sends the generated power back down a cable to the ground. The technology is already through its seventh iteration, and the current version has a generating capacity of 600 kilowatts (not far off from this massive turbine I visited in Texas). Hardham told me of Makani's plan to build a much bigger version: a five-megawatt behemoth, about as wide as the wingspan of a Boeing 747, ideally suited for offshore use.

There is a lot of energy flowing by high above our heads, and Hardham was one of the primary faces of the attempt to start harnessing it. As the front-page memorial on Makani's website shows, his loss is huge for the company, and for an industry that needs all the smart, driven people it can find.

Image via Makani Power

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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