Google scientists plan new mirror material for cheaper solar power

Google is disappointed with the lack of breakthrough investment ideas in the green technology sector but the company is working to develop its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more.

“We’ve been looking at very unusual materials for the mirrors both for the reflective surface as well as the substrate that the mirror is mounted on,” the company’s green energy czar Bill Weihl told Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit…

The company’s engineers have been focused on solar thermal technology, in which the sun’s energy is used to heat up a substance that produces steam to turn a turbine. Mirrors focus the sun’s rays on the heated substance.

Weihl said Google is looking to cut the cost of making heliostats, the fields of mirrors that have to track the sun, by at least a factor of two, “ideally a factor of three or four.”

“Typically what we’re seeing is $2.50 to $4 a watt (for) capital cost,” Weihl said. “So a 250 megawatt installation would be $600 million to a $1 billion. It’s a lot of money.” That works out to 12 to 18 cents a kilowatt hour.

Google hopes to have a viable technology to show internally in a couple of months, Weihl said. It will need to do accelerated testing to show the impact of decades of wear on the new mirrors in desert conditions.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. “I’m very hopeful we will have mirrors that are cheaper than what companies in the space are using…”

Every little bit helps. Reviewing science articles as frequently as I do – I’m struck by the number of new approaches university researchers around the world are coming up with. Now, that there seems to be a climate of support for energy research.

That’s not really a pun – is it?

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2 comments

  1. Jägermeister

    “Now, that there seems to be a climate of support for energy research.”

    Reminds me of the oil crisis in the 70s… so many ideas, so many initiatives, so little implementation… well, perhaps the time for it is now.

  2. Mr. Fusion

    Science did not get to our present place by one leap. It took millions of small, incremental steps of constant learning and harnessing new discoveries.

    May Google find their answers.

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