NewEnergyNews: GOOGLE’S $10 MIL TO eSOLAR POWER PLANTS

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    Monday, January 21, 2008

    GOOGLE’S $10 MIL TO eSOLAR POWER PLANTS

    Word on the street is that eSolar is about to go to town in the solar thermal plant business.

    Spawned from veteran digital entrepreneur Bill Gross’ IdeaLab in Pasadena, eSolar has assembled an exceptional team of innovators who have put together a breakthrough version of a solar thermal (also known as concentrating solar) power plant.

    For some time now, scientists and engineers have been growing more and more aware of the shortcomings of solar photovoltaic (PV)-generated electricity. The scale of PV makes sense as a home installation but the PV manufacturing process and present limitations of PV cell efficiency make a home panel installation too expensive and a power plant-sized array less than readily marketable.

    Solar thermal power plants use arrays of reflecting surfaces to concentrate the sun’s heat on a liquid that flows to a boiler. There the heat turns water into steam to drive a turbine that generates electricity the same way coal-fired or nuclear-powered plants make heat to boil water into steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. A solar thermal power plant can be readily integrated with any other kind of power flowing to the grid.

    The eSolar team has invented a brilliantly streamlined, market-ready solar thermal plant concept. Its “zero-silicon” reflectors are flat for easy, inexpensive manufacture, handling, and installation. They are stable and modular and arrays can be purchased in 25 megawatt lots that can be linked serially or in parallel to create power plants of up to 500 megawatts or more.


    Artist's rendering of the breakthrough eSolar power plant concept. (click to enlarge)

    As sure as the sun rises in the morning, solar energy is the most plentiful source of energy there is. The eSolar power plant design may just be the breakthrough combination of science and marketing that turns the sun’s plentiful promise into cost-competitive electricity. The guys at Google like the idea, to the tune of $10 million:

    eSolar gets $10M of Google’s donations to social causes
    January 17, 2008 (bizjournals via Los Angeles Business)
    and
    Google.org announces $26 million in grants, investments
    Verne Kopytoff, January 18, 2008 (SF Chronicle)

    WHO
    eSolar (Asif Ansari, CEO; Bill Gross, Chairman), Google.org (Dr. Larry Brilliant, Executive Director)

    WHAT
    Of $25 million in grants and investments by Google.org in an early step toward fulfillment of a recently announced heightened commitment to clean tech and New Energy (see GOOGLE GOES GAA-GAA FOR NEW ENERGY), Google.org’s largest specified investment, $10 million, will go to eSolar to help finance solar thermal power plant installations. The money is being described as an investment but there is no indication of terms.

    Prototype solar thermal power plant installation. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    The investment was announced January 17.

    WHERE
    - eSolar is based in Pasadena, CA.
    - Google.org is part of the Google “starship” based in Mountain View, CA.

    WHY
    - Google.org was formed to effectuate the Google founders’ pledge to use 1% of Google’s initial IPO proceeds plus 1% of Google’s annual profits to do good. That initial and continuing investment is presently valued at around $1.8 billion and will probably grow about $40 million more from 2008 profits. The intent of the program has been described as jump-starting innovation that will lead to social change.
    - People who know Bill Gross, the force behind IdeaLab and eSolar, say that solar energy isn’t just a business for him, it’s a guiding passion. He has created successful companies bought by Yahoo and Google and involved in the development of the newly emerging Aptera electric car.

    An alternative solar thermal power plant: Parabolic mirrors concentrate the sun's heat on liquid flowing in pipes through an array. The heated liquid boils water into steam that drives a turbine that generates electricity. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Larry Brilliant, Google.org:"We're brand-new, we're young, we're really just coming to the starting line…"
    - Sheryl Sandberg, Google vice president/Google.org's boardmember: "You should hold us accountable for real spending and real results…"

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