Google sparks solar energy by investing $168M for huge power tower

Google helps build 450ft tall tower using 173,000 mirrors to produce energy

brightsource powertower
Google today said it invested $168 million in a solar energy plant known as a power tower that uses directed mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar receiver at the top of a tall tower. In this case, a 450ft tall tower using 173,000 mirrors.

From Google: "The technology works by using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. The solar receiver generates steam, which them spins a traditional turbine and generator to make electricity. Power towers are very efficient because all those mirrors focus a tremendous amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature (up to 1000 degrees F).  The project should generate 392 gross MW of clean, solar energy."

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Solar energy firm BrightSource will be building the tower, which it claims will be the largest solar power tower in the world when completed in 2013. It also says the tower, known as the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, will nearly double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the US today.  

According to Google, several large solar projects are in the works in the US and the world, but Ivanpah, located in the Mojave Desert, will be the first solar power tower system of this scale. The project is being constructed by Bechtel.

BrightSource added that it finalized $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the US Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office to build the facility and Google will join NRG Solar LLC as an investor.

Google said this investment was its largest in clean energy spending and that the company has invested over $250 million in the clean energy sector.  

Last October, Google said it inked "an agreement to invest in the development of a backbone transmission project off the Mid-Atlantic coast that offers a solid financial return while helping to accelerate offshore wind development-so it's both good business and good for the environment. The new project can enable the creation of thousands of jobs, improve consumer access to clean energy sources and increase the reliability of the Mid-Atlantic region's existing power grid."

The project, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone will be built across 350 miles of ocean from New Jersey to Virginia and will be able to connect 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines. That's equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households, Google stated. Google didn't say exactly how much it was investing though.

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