To serve the renewable electricity needs of utility-scale energy providers, eSolar has developed a market disrupting solar thermal power plant technology. Generation can be scaled from 25 MW to over 500 MW at energy prices competitive with traditional fossil fuels.
Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, has been keeping a VERY low profile — at least on the radar screens I look at. So I was keen to see Google Offers a Map for Its Philanthropy in yesterday’s New York Times. The eSolar investment is part of the #1: RE<C of Google.org’s five core initiatives [RE<C is short for “Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal“]. eSolar is an Idea Lab startup.
Here’s a short eSolar PDF explaining their approach to thermal power. I’m especially interested as eSolar seems to be doing the essential things to produce economic plants: modular design based on 25 MW modules, volume manufacturing of standard assemblies, low-skilled labor required for field installation. From the PDF:
eSolar technology replaces the front end of a traditional power plant, using solar heat instead of fossil fuel heat to create steam to power electric generators. Previous attempts to deliver affordable solar thermal power have had mixed results. The economic tipping point occurs when the capital cost of the solar field is less than the capital costs and fuel costs of the traditional system. To address this issue, eSolar has developed a modular power plant architecture designed to take advantage of mass manufactured components at every level.
…Our heliostats are designed to fit efficiently into shipping containers to keep transportation costs low, and they are pre-assembled at the factory to minimize on-site labor.
Back to Google.org, here’s more from Andrew Revkin at NY Times:
This is a very quick alert on Googleâ€™s announcement this morning of $25 million in investments and grants from its moneymaking and philanthropic branches, all aimed at tackling challenges it sees as vital to fostering progress, particularly in the developing world: climate and energy security, education and small business, advancements in technology and information flow to help communities identify and respond to looming threats to health and security (from epidemics to drought).
Around $175 million will go out over the next three years to a host of groups and businesses focusing on everything from disaster forecasting to plug-in vehicles.
In a release (thereâ€™s more detail at http://www.google.org), Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org, said: â€œThese five initiatives are our attempt to address some of the hard problems we as a world need to face in the coming decade. We have chosen them both because we think solving them will make a better, fairer, safer world for our children and grandchildren â€” and the children and grandchildren of people all over the world â€” but also because we feel that these core initiatives fit well with Googleâ€™s core strengths, especially its innovative technologies and its talented engineers and other Googlers, who are really our most valuable assets.â€
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