Google continues its quest to revolutionize the energy industry with a new type of mirror that could cut the cost of building a solar thermal plant in half. The Internet giant is remaining mostly mum about the mirror technology, but the company claims it could be ready in one to three years if all goes well.
Why solar thermal? Google has invested heavily in the technology, which uses an array of movable mirrors (heliostats) to concentrate sunlight onto a collector tower that in turn produces steam to spin a turbine. The company invested $10 million each in solar thermal startups eSolar and BrightSource Energy in 2008, and both ventures are interested in Google’s mirror prototype. Both companies are also working towards making solar thermal cost-competitive with fossil fuels–a goal shared with Google. As of right now, Google is only testing the mirrors internally, but we’ll be keeping an eye out to see if the technology moves to the external testing stage.