Google’s ‘Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal’ Initiative

Whether Google is looking to find new ways to power its phenomenally power-hungry server farms, or just to save the planet, is unknown, but it has been stepping up its involvement in the solar power business with two investments in the last couple of months to add to its 2002 investment in Nanosolar.

Nanosolar makes thin film, printable solar cells which can be printed on sheets of plastic, which can then be transparently integrated into roofs, walls and other surfaces.

Last month Nanosolar debuted the solar industry’s first 1GW production tool for printing solar panels.

Nanosolar’s 1GW CIGS (copper-gallium-selenide)  coater costs $1.65 million and prints cells at 100 feet-per-minute  which, claims Nanosolar, is two orders of magnitude more capital efficient than a high-vacuum process for which the tool would cost ten times more.

“If we cared to run it even faster, we could”, claims Nanosolar, “the same coating technique works in principle for speeds up to 2000 feet-per-minute too. In fact, it turns out the faster we run, the better the coating.”

Nanosolar is targeting $1 per Watt for the cost of its solar panels. It put the second solar panel it made up for sale on e-Bay last December. It attracted bid of  $70,000 before eBay pulled it, saying that, as the proceeds were to go to charity, it infringed their terms of doing business.

Google’s latest solar power investment is BrightSource Energy of California which intends to build a 900MW solar power plant  in California’s Mojave Desert.

And in May, Google invested in eSolar which aims to make the cost of generating electricity from  solar power cost-competitive with electricity generated from fossil fuels.

eSolar has developed a power plant which uses small mirrors to track the sun very precisely and reflect sunlight to a tower-mounted receiver which boils water to create steam which powers a turbine and generator to create electricity.

It may be all very well for the Americans but, with our weather, it looks as if we’ll be relying on Gordon’s windmill programme.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *