Search giant Google said it's working on the development of a new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more. Google green energy czar Bill Weihl explained at the Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco that Google is looking at very unusual materials for the mirrors both for the reflective surface as well as the substrate that the mirror is mounted on. Weihl added that Google hopes to have viable technology ready for internal testing in a couple of months.
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.
New solar power innovations aren't the only thing Google is working on, Weihl also revealed Google is developing gas turbines that would run on solar power rather than natural gas. Within two to three years they plan to demonstrate a significant scale pilot of a system that generates electricity at a cost of 5 cents or less per kilowatt hour.