18 January 2008 – Google has invested $10m into eSolar, a Californian company specialising in solar thermal energy, as part of its pledge to use some of its profits to “develop renewable energy cheaper than coal”.
Solar thermal energy has begun to attract the interest of investors, according to the FT, because it offers a cheap way of harnessing the sun’s power to generate electricity.
Unlike photovoltaics, also known as solar panels, which use silicon to turn the sun’s rays directly into electric current, solar thermal technology uses infrastructure similar to traditional power plants.
The technology in its basic form consists of mirrors that focus the sun’s rays to heat water which drives steam turbines. Because no silicon is involved, this technology is relatively cheap and can be deployed on a large scale.