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Summary:

They’ve got your search, your mail, your maps. One day they might have the answer to your cheap, clean energy needs too. And they’re looking for partners. As part of Google’s announcement, aimed at developing cleaner power for less money, Google (GOOG) referenced solar thermal startup […]

Google’s Partners They’ve got your search, your mail, your maps. One day they might have the answer to your cheap, clean energy needs too. And they’re looking for partners. As part of Google’s announcement, aimed at developing cleaner power for less money, Google (GOOG) referenced solar thermal startup eSolar and wind energy startup Makani Power as partners that “have promising scalable energy technologies.”

Since there were no further details given as to the nature of these partnerships, Earth2Tech did some digging into the companies’ business. While neither company would comment on their work with Google, or the Google announcement, both said they were excited about working with Google. So, who are these guys and what do the do?

Pasadena, Calif.-based eSolar, not to be confused with PV e-Solar, was founded in 2007 by Bill Gross as part of his company IdeaLab. eSolar hopes to improve upon solar thermal by making much smaller heliostats than those currently on the market, and it wants them to be easy to mass produce. The model is based on the use of low-profile 25-megawatt generator units. Each generator would have an array of heliostats — mirrors that track the sun’s arc, and reflect the light to boil water and produce steam that powers a turbine.

solar array

eSolar is banking on their modular design to make utility-scale solar power economically possible. The modular design allows them to scale plants up to 500 MW from 25 MW made up of many individual generators. The independent units ensuring that the entire array doesn’t go down if one unit hiccups.
This is not the first time Gross has dealt with Google. He also founded the online photo publishing platform Picasa, which he sold to Google in 2004.

Makani Power, based in Alameda, Calif., is no stranger to Google, either. Last year they raised $10 million in Series A funding from the company. “Google is one of our primary investors to date,” Makani spokesperson Amy Johns told us. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be pushing forward with them.”

kiteMakani, pronounced mah kah’ nee, is Hawaiian for “wind or breeze.” The company looks to tap into the high-energy wind found at high altitudes 5 to 10 km up. Most high-altitude wind generation involves stringing up large kites on high tension wires, and the cryptic Makani site gives up few details, although their staff page does list several kite designers. The information provided by Google on the wind company says they are “designing membrane structures to cover large areas of the sky.” Sounds mildly terrifying to me. The only available image of their wind generator was on Google’s blog, and it looks more like a dragon fin than a wind generator. Johns tells us that this photo is of a very early prototype.

Both eSolar and Makani are primed to be making announcements in the coming months. We’ll see what this new partnership yields. GSolar? GWind? GEnergy?

  1. [...] Earth2Tech: Google’s Green Energy Partners – eSolar and Makani. [...]

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  2. [...] 1-3 above have been successfully tested recently in Seville’s solar power tower project. Even Google has similar plans with its partner eSolar. If all goes smoothly it is a win-win situation that has [...]

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  3. [...] making steam that in turn powers traditional steam turbines. (The picture above is from eSolar, the solar thermal company Google is partnering with for its “RE Less Than C” program, but uses a similar setup as SolarReserve’s [...]

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  4. [...] eSolar hopes to improve upon solar thermal by designing scalable power plants with smaller heliostats — mirrors that track the sun’s rays, and reflect the light to boil water and produce steam that powers a turbine. The heliostats themselves are smaller than most being built for the market and each plant’s thermal towers have an array of heliostats. The design allows the solar power plant to be able to scale up to 500 MW from 25 MW. And the independent units can ensure that the entire array doesn’t go down if one unit hiccups. [...]

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  5. [...] Unlike entrepreneurs, governments don’t have to look to the past to make accurate decisions about the future– they just have to look to the polls to see how to get elected this year. The government never would have recognized that two brothers who owned a bicycle shop in Ohio would be able to develop and build a flying airplane faster than anyone else, and why should we expect that the government can now figure out, in advance, who will create new environmental technologies and what exactly those should be? What environmentalists are trying to legislate is akin to the government of 100 years ago mandating what the design of the first airplane would be and who would build it– and they would not have been as successful, because only a free market of innovation could result in the Wright Brothers making their first plane. If the government was paying other people to create the kind of airplane the government had mandated would be able to fly, the Wright Brothers might never have tried to invent the plane in the first place. Perhaps we would have gotten a worse design for the first plane, much later. [...]

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  6. [...] 1-3 above have been successfully tested recently in Seville’s solar power tower project. Even Google has similar plans with its partner eSolar. If all goes smoothly it is a win-win situation that has [...]

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  7. [...] to expand its energy portfolio this summer. The green energy initiative started off last year with plays in wind, with stealthy Makani, and solar, with Bill Gross’s eSolar, and made mention of intentions to invest in geothermal. Then, earlier this summer, following [...]

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  8. [...] garner more than $20 million for the Alameda, Calif.-based startup. The company had previously raised $10 million from Google in a series A round in [...]

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  9. Incredible writing. Will definitely come back again soon.

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