Thursday, December 8, 2011

Goodbye Solar Thermal energy production: we hardly knew you

This article is about Google’s closure of a solar power project. Google started the program in 2007 and invested $168 million in Brightsource’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). Google abandoned the program citing that other institutions were better positioned to advance the research. The focal point of the ISEGS was a solar tower that stood in the middle of a field of heliostats. Heliostats are mirrors that are used to reflect sunlight to a specific point, in this case the top of the tower. Google’s abandonment of the heliostat technology illustrates a trend in the industry; photovoltaic (PV) cells are taking over the market. Lately the prices of PV cells have dropped, giving them an edge over heliostat technology.
Personally I see this as a last nail in the coffin for heliostat technology. Google is one of the largest and most profitable companies in the United States. If they cannot see an economic reason to continue to conduct research, then there is little hope for the technology. Overall I think it is a great idea for large companies to invest in solar power R&D. Private companies are usually better at sorting out the winners and losers when compared to the government. Hopefully investments like Google’s can lead to innovations that make solar power a more viable option in the near future.
--Alec Fields

1 comment:

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