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Google touts solar thermal breakthrough

Google’s high-profile plan to develop renewable energy that is cheaper than coal could soon bear fruit, after the search giant revealed it has developed a new mirror technology that could slash the cost of building a solar thermal plant.

According to reports by Reuters, the internal prototype for the new concentrated solar technology promises to cut the cost of solar thermal power systems in half.

Bill Weihl, Google’s green czar, told the news agency that if development and testing go well, he could see the product being ready for commercial-scale deployment in one to three years. “Things have progressed,” he said. “We have an internal prototype.”

The project is focused on reducing the cost of the heliostats, the fields of mirrors that track the sun and concentrate its power on a point so that it can be used to create steam and drive a turbine. Google has reportedly developed new materials for the mirror’s reflective surface and the substrate on which the mirror is mounted.

Google has already made a number of high-profile investments in concentrated solar thermal systems through solar companies eSolarand BrightSource. Weil said the new mirror technology was not at a stage where it could be tested externally, but he added that both eSolar and BrightSource had already expressed interest in the development.

The announcement is the latest in an onslaught of green pledges made by Google this year as it accelerates plans to establish itself as a major player in the clean energy field, as well as improve its own environmental credentials as a huge consumer of energy.

It has already earmarked concentrated solar thermal, enhanced geothermal and high-altitude wind systems as areas for future development. In an interview earlier this year with the New York Times, Weihl said the company was making good progress towards its goal of developing renewable energy technologies that can prove more cost effective than coal.

Category/ies:Solar Tech.
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