Just a few days ago we reported on Google’s 49% purchase of a German power plant. That five million (U.S.) dollar deal was the search engine giant’s first foray into European clean energy, and was undoubtedly significant in its own right. But in the grand scheme of Google’s investments, five million simply isn’t that much. After all, Google had invested over 100 million dollars in the clean energy sector at the time of that transaction, and another recent investment – of $168 million – puts the German solar deal to shame.
The solar power plant receiving the immense capital support from Google is named the “Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System,” and it’s as immense a project as any seen in the history of renewable energy. The solar farm is massive (the largest of its kind ever created) and will provide enough power to support 140,000 homes each year over the plant’s 30-year lifespan. To put things in perspective, while the German plant Google funded earlier this month will be generating an impressive 19 MW, the Ivanpah farm will generate 392 MW. It will also be doing so in a manner that’s 85% cleaner than natural gas plants, and which will result in a reduction of 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifespan of the plant.
The technology being used is different than many solar farms, which function using heat panels. Ivanpah will be using a “solar power tower” model. The tower form of solar plant uses mirrors instead of heat panels. The light of the sun is focused and directed at a tower by thousands of mirrors. The tower, which is equipped with a closed-circuit water system, then generates steam rapidly, spinning a turbine to produce energy. Among Ivanpah’s other innovations is its model of water system, which uses 95% less water than competing technologies.
Ivanpah is a project of the BrightSource Energy company, and is currently under construction in California’s Mojave Desert. The solar farm is slated for completion in 2013. In addition to receiving the generous backing from Google, the solar company has received funds from the NRG and a $1.37 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. government.
[via the Official Google Blog]