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Scoop: Radia raising up to $300M for world's largest airplane

A rendering depicts the enormous Radia WindRunner aircraft, flying over a desert landscape.

Radia's WindRunner, seen here in a rendering, would span 80 feet longer than the largest military aircraft. Rendering: Courtesy of Radia

Radia is raising up to $300 million, the company tells Axios, as it races to make the world's biggest airplane, built for transporting massive wind turbine blades.

Why it matters: The jumbo aircraft would enable energy developers to more efficiently install wind turbine blades too long to be shipped by road or rail.

The latest: Radia in February started raising its Series C, targeting between $200 million and $300 million, CEO Mark Lundstrom tells Axios.

  • The Boulder, Colorado-based startup has gotten commitments from strategic investors that would benefit from being able to build taller wind turbines, Lundstrom says.
  • The CEO declined to state how much the company has raised so far. PitchBook pegs the figure at $104 million at an estimated $1 billion post-money valuation.

Big picture: Wind developers are scrambling to to maximize the amount of energy generated by their wind turbines.

  • New wind farms are encroaching more on communities, stoking local opposition and permitting fights that have stalled land-based projects.
  • Meanwhile data centers and AI have unleashed a surge of new energy demand that's straining grids nationwide.

Radia burst onto the clean-energy scene last week, when the Wall Street Journal profiled the company's effort to build a cargo airplane with 12 times the volume of a Boeing 747.

Between the lines: Radia wants its 356-foot WindRunner aircraft to not only help get the blades to their project site faster, but to also help wind developers get more energy from their turbines, as the length of a blade determines how much energy it produces.

  • At sea, the blades can be enormous: they're being transported across open water by ship. On land, output is limited by what a truck or freight train can accommodate.

Radia says its extra-long aircraft, about the length of a football field, will enable developers to build turbines that are 300 feet taller than the current U.S. average.

  • The company's first customer is an independent power producer that's purchased a 1 GW project in Nevada.

Reality check: The airplane would need a 6,000-foot packed-dirt runway to be built for each project.

What they're saying: "What's important to the grid, data centers, green energy production is a power source that's low-cost and high consistency," Lundstrom says. "Bigger turbines do that better."

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