Hard on the heels of being approved by the FTC to buy and sell energy, Google has announced what they see as a significant breakthrough in the materials used to concentrate the sun’s rays in solar thermal technology plants.
Solar thermal plans work by focusing the rays of the sun on water in order to boil the water to form steam, which is then used to turn turbines to generate electricity. The more focused the the beam of light, the more steam is produced more quickly and the more electricity can be generated. Google has been working with the materials that are used in the construction of the mirrors that do the focusing, and they feel that they have made a discovery that can double the efficiency of a solar thermal technology power plant, according to a CNET article.
Bill Weihl, who is Google’s green-energy czar, says that they have been working hard on the project and are producing results. He says “Things have progressed. We have an internal prototype. There is a decent chance that in a small number of years, we could have a 2-X reduction in cost.” Obviously, by cutting in half the cost of building the power plant, the owner of the plant can produce energy at a lower cost, making that energy more attractive to buyers.
Google has been investing not only in research related to the energy industry, but specifically in companies that have a connection to the green energy field and solar thermal companies in particular. Two such acquisitions, eSolar and BrightSource, would be the logical vehicles for such a mirror, something that is not lost on Weihl. He says that he has discussed the new mirror technology with both companies, and that they are interested, although the new technology is not yet at a point where it can be tested outside Google’s labs. At the same time, he said that both companies were interested in the development, noting that “If it works, it would absolutely be something they would use.”
Perhaps there was some commercial reason after all for Google to acquire a license to buy and sell energy…