Photo: Public domain, Sandia Labs
The Search Giant is Working on Cheaper Mirrors
Solar thermal power has a bright future (ha!), but at the moment the biggest hurdle in the way of wider adoption is capital cost. All those mirrors cost a lot of money and add up to a significant portion of the total cost of a solar thermal power plant. Thats why Google's energy division has been working on making cheaper mirrors. Bill Weihl, the company's green energy czar, claims that their latest prototype could cut by half the cost of building a solar thermal plant. That would be a huge breakthrough!
Bill Weihl said that if development and testing go well, he could see the product being ready in one to three years. [...]
Google has been looking at unusual materials for the mirror's reflective surface and the substrate on which the mirror is mounted.
In solar thermal technology, the sun's energy is used to heat a substance that produces steam to run a turbine. Mirrors focus the sun's rays on the heated substance. [...]
"There is a decent chance that in a small number of years, we could have a 2-X reduction in cost," he said. (source)
Google says it has been discussing the new mirror technology with eSolar and Brightsource Energy (they recently got $1.4 billion in loan guarantees), two solar thermal companies that it has invested in a couple of years ago. If the testing and development goes well, this could mean that Google would already have some partners to deploy the technology.
This research is part of Google.org's Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal: "we will work to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal with a goal of producing one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity - enough to power a city the size of San Francisco - in years, not decades."
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