Google isn't content to watch as solar power remains too expensive for mass commercial use—no, the Internet behemoth announced plans yesterday to revolutionize the industry itself by developing mirror technology that could cut the cost of solar thermal energy by at least a quarter.
It's not as crazy of an idea as it initially seems. Google.org, the charitable arm of Google, declared last year that one of its goals is to develop a source of renewable energy that is cheaper than coal. Thus far, Google.org has invested in AltaRock Energy's geothermal technology, eSolar and Brightsource's solar thermal work, and Makani Power's kite energy system. The organization has also filed a patent for a wave-powered floating data centers.
But what's interesting about this venture is that Google seems to be stepping on the toes of some of the companies it has invested heavily in, namely eSolar ($130 million investment) and Brightsource ($115 million investment). And since Bill Weihl, Google's green energy czar, said yesterday at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit that he was disappointed with the lack of innovation in the solar thermal space, it's puzzling as to why the company invested in eSolar and Brightsource at all.
We'll find out what Google has planned soon enough—the company will have a working prototype in the next few months.