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Google Getting Into the Solar Mirror Business

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the reflects-well-on-them dept.

Google 139

adeelarshad82 writes with this excerpt from a Reuters report: "Google is disappointed with the lack of breakthrough investment ideas in the green technology sector, but the company is working to develop its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by [25%] or more. The company's engineers have been focused on solar thermal technology, in which the sun's energy is used to heat up a substance that produces steam to turn a turbine. Mirrors focus the sun's rays on the heated substance. ... Google hopes to have a viable technology to show internally in a couple of months, Bill Weihl said. It will need to do accelerated testing to show the impact of decades of wear on the new mirrors in desert conditions."

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139 comments

Solar Beards (2, Interesting)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398389)

Beards at Google and this article [slashdot.org] a coincidence? I think not.

Re:Solar Beards (0)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398579)

Except this doesn't come from Nepal and it is not reported by DailyMail.co.uk "tabloid". This is a proven technology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_tower [wikipedia.org]

Re:Solar Beards (2, Interesting)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398843)

This [youtube.com] is waaay better.

Re:Solar Beards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399195)

Oh wow, i never thought anyone had actually used this effect to create a generator.

I always wondered why nobody tried to use the method when i saw how cooling towers worked.
Air gets hot inside, flows up and sucks more air in from below due to the lower pressure, rinse and repeat.

And the fact that there was some plant growth is quite amazing.
This would be perfect for those really hot areas in and around deserts.

Power? (3, Funny)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398395)

I guess they figured out thier electric bills were too high.

Re:Power? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398423)

If I'm not mistaken, they've been into solar for some time, it's just now that they're apparently planning to create some of their own hardware for parts of it.

Re:Power? (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398437)

I actually remember seeing test setups of this tech 18 years ago, not a new technology, but still very cool.

If I am seeing this right, did I get first post?

Re:Power? (3, Informative)

Cheesetrap (1597399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398571)

I actually remember seeing test setups of this tech 18 years ago, not a new technology, but still very cool.

Try 18 hundred years... While stories of Archimedes' Mirror [wikipedia.org] may have been greatly exaggerated (Mythbusters and a couple of independent projects have recreated the effect but with an infeasible time-frame for warfare), the concept and 'technology' of parabolic mirrors or arrays to concentrate solar heat are pretty ancient. Also, Death Ray FTW. :D

Re:Power? (3, Interesting)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398497)

I guess they figured out thier electric bills were too high.

Is it just me that's annoyed that in most power plants we actually still use glorified steam engines ?

I know that it's the best way we currently have to convert heat (which is the only type of energy we manage to recover) into electricity, but it still feels kludgy. I hope we'll figure out something else eventually.

Re:Power? (4, Informative)

emilper (826945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398667)

Glorified ? How about "highly sophisticated" ? Even a nuclear submarine is powered by a "glorified steam engine".

Re:Power? (5, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398723)

Not really. It's good, proven technology. It is simple, with just a few moving parts that all move continuously in the same direction. It scales up very well: you get one big expensive steam turbine and you can point a boatload of cheap mirrors (/heat sources) at it. It takes advantage of some of the exotic properties of one of the most fascinating chemicals out there: Water. It produces no toxic waste to dispose of (not from the steam-engine part, at least... maybe a few lubricants you'll need to recycle, but that's pretty trivial). It doesn't distribute well (if you're piping hot working fluids around from one site to another, the heat tends to leak). Photovoltaics have it beat there, but they can't use all the spectrum. I suppose it doesn't scale down spectacularly well either; you might have better luck with a Stirling engine (more moving parts, though).

I don't see the big "kludge", myself. Is it the part where you hook it up to a bundle of wire and spin it around in a magnetic field to make electricity? I think that's pretty awesome too; you can move a whooole lot of electrons that way.

Re:Power? (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398921)

Not really. It's good, proven technology. It is simple, with just a few moving parts that all move continuously in the same direction. It scales up very well: you get one big expensive steam turbine and you can point a boatload of cheap mirrors (/heat sources) at it. It takes advantage of some of the exotic properties of one of the most fascinating chemicals out there: Water. It produces no toxic waste to dispose of (not from the steam-engine part, at least... maybe a few lubricants you'll need to recycle, but that's pretty trivial).

Another fascinating chemical that's commonly used is sodium (since there are typically two circuits) which is commonly used in the secondary circuit when the heat source is radioactive.

Still,
nuclear (indirect if it's solar) -> heat -> motion -> electricity
doesn't trike me as being an elegant solution even though I'll agree that it's convenient.

Re:Power? (1)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399241)

Does anyone do sodium in anything other than Fast Breeders anymore?

My exposure to actual practice is about 30 years out of date, but I don't think much has changed.

Liquid metals like sodium are used on Fast Breeders largely due to the moderation effect which water in the primary loop would cause.

They do have their own issues.

They are more expensive to build and operate because the primary loop is highly radioactive.
Also corrosive.
A primary/secondary leak becomes both more likely, and much more dangerous.

For that reason, water is used on almost all reactors other than fast breeders on both primary and secondary loops.

For those few FBR's, the liquid metal is in the primary loop, because obviously you aren't going to drive turbines with liquid metal, and driving turbines is what the secondary loop is all about.

Re:Power? (3, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399709)

The kludgy bit is that you go from heat->motion->electricity, with losses at each step. Maybe that's just good reuse, having already debugged both steps pretty thoroughly.

But after a century or so of power plants, it's starting to feel like optimization is no longer premature. The power plant is the very center of a tight loop, and worth optimizing.

Unfortunately, any time you replace a well-understood legacy system with a new one you get bugs, and the whole heat->electricity thing isn't yet anywhere near well library-quality code. It actually turns out to be less efficient, not more. But as a programmer you look at the inefficiencies and figure there's got to be a better way.

Re:Power? (2, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400675)

We need someone to open-source a design of one of these setups so we can build these ourselves and power our own homes with our wasted front yard space ---- the trophy yard is dying with the baby boomers.

Or we could grow fruits/veggies in our yards and cut back on the 400 gallons of fuel/person used each year to bring us our groceries.

Re:Power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29400833)

s/electrons/energy/g

Re:Power? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398759)

Look at all the ways we use glorified iron, and glorified sand.

Re:Power? (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398885)

And this being bad exactly how?

I mean a 300*300 km area of that tech suffices for all of humanity’s needs right now. With no rare materials, complex error-prone technology, or high costs.
I call that a pretty sweet deal.

Of course we will optimize it by the use of the right collector/core (imagine placing something else in the middle, like a special material or solar cell). But hey, until then, we’re very good with what we got. And the price... oh the price... Energy for next to nothing!

Re:Power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399551)

Coming from a software world, I've learned to expect that moving parts need maintenance and break whereas solid state parts are fire-and-forget and last practically forever. Computer geeks are so removed from the gritty industrial world that they consider every technology with moving parts "inelegant". At best they tolerate cheaply replaceable mechanical parts that require no maintenance. Hence the attractiveness of flash memory based storage and the lack of market penetration of water cooling systems. The idea that a huge installation of expensive moving parts that are subject to wear and tear could be the best solution is completely alien to this type of geek.

Re:Power? (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398899)

Not all power plants use steam. Some use liquid metal:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_metal_cooled_reactor [wikipedia.org]

Re:Power? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399667)

Hate to break it to you, but those also use steam.

Re:Power? (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400357)

Yeah, I was just referring to the coolant which should have been obvious from my link but you are right I didn't address the original posters real question.

Re:Power? (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399787)

If I'm not mistaken, the liquid metal is just the first step - it takes the heat from the reactor away from the core into a transfer tank that super-heats water to produce steam that drives the stator that creates the electricity.
Ultimately the reactors all seem to work on the principle of ${heat source} + water = steam to drive a turbine :: rotary motion of wires + magnets = electricity.

In theory a propulsion engine (boats, subs) could go directly from the steam driven shaft to a propeller, but I don't think they do this in practice. If I'm wrong, someone will correct me. Just thinking about it like that though, gives rise to the potential of nuclear driven steam locomotive engines (trains). Get a small and cheap enough nuke plant and in theory we could be using them to power steam driven cars. Hmmmm.

Re:Power? (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399907)

Isn't it extremely dangerous? It could escape the power plant by pretending to be a cop and then go on a killing rampage.

Re:Power? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400055)

I'll bet a big tank of liquid metal could stay hot for weeks without cooling off very much, too, thus providing solar energy on demand, day or night.

Re:Power? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399055)

the Rankine cycle[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rankine_cycle] is one of the best approximations to the Carnot in the real world. Thermodynamics wont let you get much better, and there are material constraints on how high you can get your top temperature. Combined cycle (gas turbine and ranking) power-plants let the top temperature get a little higher, and so more efficient, but there are issues with size (tends to be less power) and the energy security of gas. Fuel cells allow you to side step the thermodynamic and extract electrical energy directly from the chemical energy, but the fuel has to be very pure, and there are issues with sailing, finally nuclear fusion/fusion, again, are just glorified kettles for the top side of your rankine cycle, so glorified steam engines it is.

anyway, i quite like steam engines, did you never get taken to a steam rail way when you were small

Re:Power? (1)

snStarter (212765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400007)

I guess you haven't thought much about how much engineering has gone into making a steam-driven electrical power station have you? We have many decades of experience in making these power plants as efficient as they can possibly be. We know a LOT about them. Just because the technology has been around a long time doesn't mean it's inappropriate.

Re:Power? (1, Flamebait)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400633)

Actually, what's annoying to me is Google's arrogance - "we realize that thousands of people, at the least have been working on solar power, increasing its efficiency and effectiveness for decades. But we figure that despite all that, we can pump out something that is 25% better, oh, in a couple of months".

Re:Power? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400805)

Don't hate on steam. It may me old but it's proven, uncomplicated (which is great) and it can be generated in many ways. I dare say it's perfect.

Re:Power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29401021)

"Is it just me that's annoyed that in most power plants we actually still use glorified steam engines ?"

And the Google one does too. What is the source of your annoyance anyways? Because it's old, you don't think it's as good? Because the original idea still stands today?

Maybe they got it right the first time. Steam engines and similar thermodynamic design setups like stirling engines are simple in concept, pretty cool, and work well. They can be as sophisticated as you want; personally, I think a helium contained sealed vessel with a single moving part that works for years is pretty damn cool.

In fact, it seems most of the larger (and more efficient I think) solar plants I believe are not photovoltaic cells, but stirling engine based. Bunch of mirrors aimed at a liquid that exchanges to air or water pumping an engine.

All the massive solar collection setups in the desert that some people want to do, well, they are heat exchange systems as well, not PV. Even people with massive PV setups still usually have vacuum tube tech on roofs to serve the 20%+ energy use of hot water; those are usually thermosiphon tech or similar.

What's wrong with steam? Or water exchange? Simple, clean, effective, safe, non-toxic. What exactly are you expecting?

Re:Power? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29401153)

Is it just me that's annoyed that in most cars we actually still use glorified wheels ?

There, fixed that for you...

PS: Old technology is often the best, otherwise it would be DEAD technology....

Chill out, Google (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398403)

Damn Google. You already have the biggest e-penis in the industry.

Why don't you take a vacation. Get some sun on your pasty skin...

Google Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398407)

its not just a product name anymore....

An interim solution (4, Funny)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398417)

It will need to do accelerated testing to show the impact of decades of wear on the new mirrors in desert conditions.

Solar panels don't have to last too long when fusion is only thirty years away, am i rite?

Re:An interim solution (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398475)

Back 18 years ago, Sandia Labs was running testing of something that looked like it was this in Albuequerque NM, If that ain't sandy, what is. But I guess you were just quoting the FA, and as I read Slashdot, what is the point of RTFA...

Re:An interim solution (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398515)

But fusion power is always thirty years away. Wait until it's ten years away, and then your mirrors will probably only need to last another fifty years or so.

Re:An interim solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398529)

*whoosh*

Re:An interim solution (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400275)

Solar panels don't have to last too long when fusion is only thirty years away, am i rite?

And until then, we can use the panels to capture energy from the huge fusion reaction that's fairly close to Earth.

If Google would run candidates.... (4, Interesting)

jnmontario (865369) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398483)

I'd vote for them. They (corporate entity) seem to have a better head for good governance and forward thinking than any politician I've had the 'pleasure' of running in my province.

Re:If Google would run candidates.... (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398593)

Why couldn't you have shut your mouth up? At least till Google is ready and agrees to assume the mantle? Now every politician is out there joining hands with all the googlophobes to [e.d.] kill google. Nothing jolts them into frenzied actions of self preservation than any threat to their incumbency, real or imagines, viable or not.

Re:If Google would run candidates.... (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400503)

Nice sig, I turned off that view cause it annoyed me so much.

Re:If Google would run candidates.... (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398647)

Then they'd be more concerned about staying in office and getting their peers elected by the populace than about efficiency (or, as you call it, governance) and forward thinking. In a word, they become politicians and we're back at The Proverbial Square One.

Re:If Google would run candidates.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398767)

Since when is censorship (China) and flying around in a huge jet (with hammocks) "good governance"? Hell one vacation trip by one google founder puts more greenhouse gasses in the air than 3 typical families.

isn't this getting into Monty Burns territory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398531)

Hmmm... what happens in 20 years when Google decides to block out the sun...they'll have a monopoly on the Sun... oh noes

invest where it will really help (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398541)

Dear Google,

The problem is overpopulation. Until that's solved, all efforts to greenify amount to nothing more than squeezing together on the bus to make room for more and more riders.

40% of all pregnancies are unintended. It's pretty obvious: the best technology to invest in is contraception

Re:invest where it will really help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399343)

40% of all pregnancies are unintended. It's pretty obvious: the best technology to invest in is contraception

The sad part is that these women who have these "unwanted pregnancies" have been brainwashed that contraception is a sin. I'm not sure why they don't think fornication is a sin, but I don't know. I used to know things, but the older I get the more I realize I don't know jack shit and the best I can do is try to profit from the mess.

Re:invest where it will really help (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399953)

Dear Anonymous Coward,

we at Google hear your plea about world over-population. This is why we are proud today to tell you about our upcoming product. It will not only help control the world's population but will also push the need for large-scale construction projects.

Coming Soon from Google: Goozilla!

Testing? (2, Interesting)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398587)

" It will need to do accelerated testing to show the impact of decades of wear on the new mirrors in desert conditions" - I wonder how different these mirrors are to current mirrors. After alll, we've had solar mirrror array systems here in Southern California heating up gas for over twenty years - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Energy_Generating_Systems. I pass by one of them whenever I head up north to June or Mammoth Lake.

The article (and others I've googled) says nothing abut what the technology will be. I wonder if it would be like the ESA improvements for the satellites - http://www.rssd.esa.int/SA/PLANCK/include/payl/node5.html

Re:Testing? (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399193)

I don't know why they'd need to do conditions-testing; look at the auto glass in the same neighbourhood, and figure that at a couple hundred feet off the ground you get maybe 10% as much wear and tear (most of the harsh blowing sand is at ground level).

There's a new solar-mirror setup just north of Lancaster CA. It's some sort of test prototype, I don't recall the details. The way the mirror array is situated here, the collector is visible from the ground as you go by on the highway, and the reflection is bright enough that I expect it could damage eyesight.

Re:Testing? (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400929)

that's not the one near kramer junction? I was referring to the one just north of kramer junction - which is also north of lancaster.

meanwhile.... (4, Interesting)

Luke_22 (1296823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398595)

...Italy just dropped all economical support to solar-termal energy.
photovoltaic still has subsides, but no more for solar-thermal.
and we were the 3rd country with most solar thermal in europe untill now.
...

Why? (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399161)

Did they drop support because they couldn't get it to work well, or is it working well enough that no subsidies are needed anymore? Or is Italy just broke and dropping a lot of governmental spending in general?

Google and Govt talk: (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398645)

From the article:

Weihl said Google had not intended to invest much more in early years, but that there was little to buy. "I would say it's reasonable to be a little bit discouraged there and from my point of view, it's not right to be seriously discouraged," he said. "There isn't enough investment going into the early stages of investment pipeline before the venture funds come into the play." The U.S. government needs to provide more funds to develop ideas at the laboratory stage, he said. "I'd like to see $20 billion or $30 billion for 10 yrs (for the sector)," Weihl said. "That would be fabulous. It's pretty clear what we have seen isn't enough."

Google: "Government, please throw in some 20 or 30 billion dollars to into solar energy research"

Govt: Nah, deficits are high. We dont have money. It should be done by the private sector. 20 or 30 billion dollars is too much way too much we cant afford it It is not a trivial sum like 780 billion dollars to clean up after wall street greedy moneybags. Tell you what? Grow too big to fail. Then come back asking for a couple of trillion dollars. Then we will be able to do it. OK?

Re:Google and Govt talk: (1)

Psyborgue (699890) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399297)

Should be modded "informative", not funny.

Re:Google and Govt talk: (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399975)

Actually if there ever was a time for a "+5, Sad truth", that was it.

Re:Google and Govt talk: (2, Funny)

radish (98371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400225)

Is there an "Ignorant cliche, -1"? No...oh well.

And the summary forgot: externalizing to govt. (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398651)

"I would say it's reasonable to be a little bit discouraged there and from my point of view, it's not right to be seriously discouraged," he said. "There isn't enough investment going into the early stages of investment pipeline before the venture funds come into the play."

The U.S. government needs to provide more funds to develop ideas at the laboratory stage, he said.

"I'd like to see $20 billion or $30 billion for 10 yrs (for the sector)," Weihl said. "That would be fabulous. It's pretty clear what we have seen isn't enough."

Seems like Google would like to externalize the investments, which will benefit them on the long run to tax payers. Wonder how the summary could forget such a minor detail?

Google is the new Shinra (1)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398659)

C'mon: they already know everything about you- they have access to your e-mail, schedule, phone calls, documents, and pretty much anything- and now they're going to take over the energy industry too? Google is aiming for world domination! Wake up sheeple!

That was a joke. Sort of.

Re:Google is the new Shinra (1)

A12m0v (1315511) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398715)

awaiting their mako reactors :-)

Re:Google is the new Shinra (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398717)

I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords.

"Do no Evil" (1, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398685)

So first we had "Do no Evil" and now they're working to blind us all so we can "See No Evil" too. What next, voice recognition -- "Hear No Evil" ?

Re:"Do no Evil" - not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398727)

I'm afraid their whole approach to IP and privacy puts them for me slowly into the "do some evil" class. Read Google Terms of Service clause 11 to get some idea. And offering to zoom in on windows in Streetview is not my idea of taking care of privacy.

As for the "hear no evil", given that it seems to do a better job at data gathering than the NSA surely an ECHELON feed won't be far away..

Re:"Do no Evil" (1)

mapuo (978029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399957)

well the "Hear No Evil" thing may just have happened already - http://www.google.com/googlevoice/ [google.com]

Re:"Do no Evil" (1)

crtreece (59298) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400059)

So first we had "Do no Evil" and now they're working to blind us all so we can "See No Evil" too. What next, voice recognition -- "Hear No Evil" ?

Already working on it. Grand Central aka Google Voice.

Here's a conspiracy theory (0, Offtopic)

colonslash (544210) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398705)

Now that Google is getting more involved with energy production, how long do you think it will be before the DOJ gets more involved in manufacturing an anti-competitive case against them? Threatening oil company profits could turn a lot of 'civil servants' anti-Google.

Re:Here's a conspiracy theory (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398745)

How is what Google does anti-competitive? Most of their services are free.

Re:Here's a conspiracy theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399717)

How is what Google does anti-competitive? Most of their services are free

When Microsoft initially offered Internet Explorer for free it was very anti-competitive. MS made enough money off of other products to subsidize Internet Explorer. In effect destroying the main source of revenue for competing companies that relied solely on the browser as source of income.

Re:Here's a conspiracy theory (1)

General Wesc (59919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400127)

Most of their services are free.

Like IE.

Re:Here's a conspiracy theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29401121)

> Most of their services are free.
No, they're really not. You've the privilege of using their services if you're willing to expose yourself to their ads. Mind you, the ratio between services and ads is pretty darned good for the end user.

Re:Here's a conspiracy theory (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398809)

Threatening oil company profits could turn a lot of 'civil servants' anti-Google.

In the Obama administration? Fat chance. They'd be more likely to throw a parade. (And you just need to look at a DC opinion poll or two to see how much the civil servants love Obama).

Re:Here's a conspiracy theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399413)

You are a retard.

Might be useful, if the beards in the ME... (1, Interesting)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398765)

Having highly efficient mirrors might be very useful, if the beards in the Middle East continue to eagerly pursue their path to self-immolation.

Burning radioactive oil wouldn't be so good, but lining the resultant wasteland of friable radioactive glass with mirrors and then transmitting the non-radioactive electricity out would return the region to usefulness for humanity.

(Before you flame, observe both that "beards" applies to all branches of the followers of Abraham and that the compulsion to use nuclear weapons - to send humanity on a one-way trip - has more to do with insanity than religion.

I am, in fact, just being pragmatic.)

since you put it that way... (1)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399433)

Perhaps we should take action to ensure that the regional players are able to advance their wmd programs at a pace outstripping their ability to use them effectively.

Producing a warhead is a relatively trivial matter whose only barriers are raw material and refining limitations.

If refined weapons grade fissile materials are able to flow more freely throughout the region, the barrier to producing warheads drops to the point that any good machine shop could build a warhead.

The beauty is that ability to put the warhead on target at any significant distance remains impossible - the infrastructure just isn't there.

By acting covertly to decrease stability a bit, we could easily create a situation where some hothead with nukes will lob one at the only target he can reach.

They'll nuke the whole region into a parking lot in a matter of hours.

Then - we can start work on making the area useful.

Where did they get the people? (2, Interesting)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398777)

This makes we wonder, where did Google get people who know how do develop mirrors? Did they buy a smaller solar power company, hire a bunch of people, or reassign some computer engineers?

Re:Where did they get the people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29400433)

You seem to believe that computer engineers are somehow capable of doing anything related to math and even physics. The world doesn't operate like that.

Re:Where did they get the people? (1)

Thoughts from Englan (1212556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400779)

They have a great advantage over employees at other companies (at least from my experience of doing contract work in a range of businesses). If they don't know something you can be damn sure they know how to Google it.

Re:Where did they get the people? (3, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29401075)

They hire professional problem solvers. They just redirected a small portion of problem solving power to this.

Cool; Now enhance coal plants (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29398883)

If Google is smart, they will use this to start enhancing Coal and Gas plants. That will allow for manufacturing scale up, while reducing the need for new infrastructure. Adding new infrastructure (power lines, generators, etc) are very high costs and hurt the move to AE. BUT, if Google can get Solar and geo-thermal (such as their support of potter drilling) to be lower costs than Coal, then the conversion to AE and hopefully Nukes will happen rather quickly. The other thing needed is a move to electric transportation as well as more efficient space HVAC.

Re:Cool; Now enhance coal plants (1)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399113)

They could just convert the coal plant to Solar. Keeping what infrastructure is already at the site(s) then adding existing solar technology they come up with.

Would that count as "enhancing Coal and Gas plants"?

Re:Cool; Now enhance coal plants (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399699)

I think that's a good idea, but I don't think it's the first step.

My idea of the first step is that Google builds a few pilot plants that power various Google centers during the day time. Work out the bugs on a small scale. And then license the technology to somebody else...who can use it to beef up old plants and build new ones.

Vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29398925)

The people at Google have an enviable vision. You see almost all of their investments fit together to future proof their company. While we are talking about Google vs. Bing or iPhone vs. Android, or the Chrome OS these guys are buying out the future.

How?

Renewable energy is probably the best investment a company like Google can make. As the only major long term cost of any server farm is electricity. They can be automated, but everything needs energy and that is the costliest thing to buy today. So imagine if you can for an initial fee tap into the ultimate source of energy for the Earth? You don't have to pay the oil cartels a penny and after the initial cost you are essentially getting energy at a discount if not for free (barring an occasional breakdown or two). The cost will be quickly offset by their ad bussiness and sooner or later their profits will greatly increase.

In the even longer run Google is poised to become the next Saudi Arabia. If they own the patent rights to the next generation of green technology that is poised to replace oil. Then just imagine the size of their coffers.

I am willing to bet this is what they are trying to do. Take a look at nanosolar, now this series of mirrors, tesla motors and their past investments in hydroelectrity (the govt squished that one). Also, I am willing to stake my soul that they have several back up plans which we don't know about.

In sort, Google is *probably* going to survive into the 22nd century.

Talked to a friend at Google about this (5, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399009)

A friend of mine who worked at Google at the time had clearly been involved in this project (although he didn't tell me...exactly) We were discussing alternative, sustainable power, and I've always been a fan of solar thermal -- he described in way more detail and depth than I thought possible the resource limits we'd run into if we tried to power America by solar thermal -- in particular the current mirrors in the prototype plants use a huge amount of aluminum, and scaling those plants up to make more than a rounding-error of our energy needs would take way more aluminum than we could forsee having. Plus, of course, it takes a ridiculous amount of electricity to refine the aluminum in the first place.

I was rather surprised, and checked his math...which was pretty accurate. I do think that other alternatives to aluminum are practical, and Google's going there.

Thad

Is it really that expensive? (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399263)

When you consider it is still so cheap that billions of aluminum beverage and food products cans are just thrown away daily? Tons of them aren't even recycled, just tossed.

And here's what could happen, a solar/aluminum/mirror "breeder" facility. The first solar mirror thermal plant on a big scale is tasked with just making the aluminum, from scrap or bauxite, then right next door is the fab for making the mirrors. They only have to pay full price for the first one, after that the price falls fast because the power source is free.

Re:Is it really that expensive? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399563)

NYC they are all recycled. I see a lot of old 60 year old or so Chinese people taking them out of the trash and hauling them for the $.05 each recycling money back. they are always hauling hundreds of cans at a time. Since they live with kids or inlaws it's a nice source of tax free cash for them

deposits in town, deposits out in ther stix (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400435)

Some places have the deposit, some don't, and as you can see, even *with* a five cent deposit, most people think so little of that that they still toss them. Without a deposit, they are mostly all tossed. Some get scavenged and recycled, some don't, and many of the people who scavenge and recycle don't even bother with the buhzillions of food cans now that have steel tops and the rest of the can is aluminum. Thye'd have to cut the tops off and rinse out the cans so they don't bother.

Now ME, I just see them as fun targets, especially if you fill them with water so you get a big splasharooni from a hit ;)

Anyway, the point was I can't see us running out of aluminum soon, besides what is already here and could be recycled, the planet has plenty of bauxite [wikipedia.org] .

Heck, out west in the desert, they have *thousands* of old junk airplanes made from aluminum sitting around. And the coming thing for new airplane construction is to go to carbon fiber and not use so much aluminum. I don't think goog will have any problems sourcing material for a big mirror project.

and hey, since when is 60 "old"!?! heheheh we call that "middle aged" now.

lawn, git, etc

Re:Talked to a friend at Google about this (0, Offtopic)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399493)

Do you have any idea how many billions of tons of aluminum ore the US military has stockpiled in bases all across the US?

Re:Talked to a friend at Google about this (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400689)

No idea, whatsoever.

Hint: 1billion tons of aluminum at 2,700kg/m3 = 370,000,000m3, which equals the entire forest industry of Europe's wood production.

So, please tell us, how many multiples of Europe's production of wood per year does the US military have just lying around in bases?

Re:Talked to a friend at Google about this (1)

germansausage (682057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29401051)

1 billion tons aluminum is about 6 million boeing 747's. So at each airforce base they have 80 thousand of them. Where do they park them all?

Refining Aluminum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29400031)

It is like gold it comes out of the ground for the most part without impurities, and to recycle it you just melt it, you don't need to refine it like steel or copper or other metals.

Re:Refining Aluminum? (5, Informative)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400547)

Aluminum is refined from bauxite and takes a huge amount of energy to produce initially.

It is extremely rare to find it in free form.

Re:Talked to a friend at Google about this (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400721)

Recycled aluminum is cheap compared to getting it from boxite.

If the mirrors end up generating more energy than it took to get the materials into the conditions they must be in --- and also recycle/reform/rework those materials into fresh materials down the line ---- then I think we're moving in the right direction.

Use More (3, Interesting)

Wardish (699865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399095)

Since I'm fond of flights of fancy...

Beam splitter, Fresnel lens, simple prisms, whatever works to separate different parts of the spectrum. Thermal energy going to thermal power generation, the rest going to solar cells that efficiently utilized that particular part of the spectrum.

The rest of course is the engineering.

Re:Use More (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29401275)

I love that, "the rest is engineering". The value of ideas like this is rarely high. Engineering is the real work on anything like this, the concepts are well established.

this is google... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399441)

I would bet that the tech they are developing is the software/hardware required to aim the mirrors at the focal point. If that gets standardized and mass produced, I could see dramatically scaling up solar thermal power cheaply.

Its something I have thought about for years, but never had the capital or free time to invest in seriously.

Did Google misinterpret (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29399447)

Did Google misinterpret the reason that Oracle bought Sun?

Not news (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#29399935)

The Google mirror [rb-hosting.de] already exists for quite some time.

Solar thermal's biggest problem (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400047)

Seems to me that a better move for Google if they really wanted to help solar thermal along is to find another country in which to build it. While the US does have a good deal of sandy, sunny land which would be great for it, the US also has enough environmentalists who would tie such a project up indefinitely in order to protect the pristine desert environment. Mirrors with better wear properties are child's play compared to solving that problem.

Re:Solar thermal's biggest problem (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400751)

Ironically, its the people who care very little about the environment that are using the arguments of those short sighted environmentalists to shoot down things like wind-power and hydroelectric generation concepts!

Oh! The birds!! Lets just stick with oil...

"substance that produces steam" (2, Funny)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29400765)

in which the sun's energy is used to heat up a substance that produces steam

What is this mythically substance that produces steam when heated up?

Google saves the Planet! (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29401109)

Just dont forget you are an American company...

Manufacture everything in the US :)

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