Google has just sealed a deal to invest $168 million in a Mojave Desert solar energy plant.
The investment is going to BrightSource Energy, a company that develops and operates large-scale solar power plants, specifically to fund its Ivanpah project.
Ivanpah is a solar electric generating system that uses solar thermal technology and “an environmentally responsible design,” to deliver reliable, clean and low-cost power to Californians, according to the project’s website.
The plant will generate energy with a technology called power towers. Mirrors, called heliostats, are arranged in an array and aim the sun’s rays at a receiver atop a tower. The receiver generates steam; the steam causes a turbine to rotate; the rotation causes a generator to generate electricity. Because such large quantities of solar energy are being directed to such a small area, the power towers are very efficient.
The power tower at Ivanpah will be around 450 feet tall. The plant will use 173,000 heliostats, and each heliostat will have two mirrors, making Ivanpah the largest project of its kind.
Construction at Ivanpah should be completed in 2013. Google’s been on something of a clean energy investment kick over the past year or so. The company was granted the ability to buy and sell energy as a public utility last February, ostensibly to find better ways to power its own massive data centers.
A short time later, Google began making significant investments in green energy technologies. The company sealed a $38 million wind farm investment in May, bought 20 years’ worth of wind farm energy in July and provided a substantial investment for a huge offshore wind farm in October.
Rick Needham is Google’s Director of Green Business Operations. On the company blog, he writes, “We hope that investing in Ivanpah spurs continued development and deployment of this promising technology while encouraging other companies to make similar investments in renewable energy.”