Santa Cruz Sentinel: Secrecy surrounds Google’s Alameda project, June 15, 2015


But ever since Google bought Alameda’s homegrown wind energy company, Makani Power, two years ago, the former Alameda Naval Air Station has become a laboratory for weird inventions.

“Once we inked that Google deal, it put Alameda Point on the map,” said Nanette Mocanu, a city official who handles leases at the old base. “A lot of high-tech companies have been looking, especially with real estate so expensive in San Jose.”

Google’s largesse last year helped tiny Makani expand from its 17,000-square-foot headquarters in a faded air control tower to a 100,000-square-foot hangar across the street. It pays $55,000 each month for the city-owned properties, according to the lease.

Its neighbor, Natel Energy, is working on hydro-power turbines. San Jose-based Wrightspeed announced earlier this year that it is relocating to Alameda as it refashions a hangar to develop electric power trains for big-rig trucks. And nearby Kai Concepts, run by Makani co-founder Don Montague, is designing recreational kiteboats.

“I think what they see is these unusually large, cool spaces. It gives them a lot of room to work in privacy, to be creative,” Mocanu said. “Those hangars are just really beautiful on the inside. You don’t get that kind of structure anywhere else.”

Mountain View-based Google takes that privacy so seriously that none of the workers who help manage the old naval grounds would talk about the company or what it might be doing. Google also declined to comment but revealed in a May 27 blog post that a huge prototype it assembled in the hangar is ready for real-world testing.