Google is shutting down its in-house CSP engineering project due to the rapidly falling cost of PV panels.
The programme, which focused on bringing down the price of heliostats and reducing water usage at CSP plants, was the centerpiece of the RE<C (Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal) campaign Google launched in 2007 and its premature termination is another hammer blow to the ailing CSP industry.
Over the past year, the cost of PV technology has dropped significantly – module prices have fallen 40% – prompting a number of developers, including Iberdrola and Solar Millennium, to abandon CSP in favour of PV. RE<C’s demise will also impact upon CSP power-tower pioneers BrightSource and eSolar, which were both recipients of investment from Google.
Engineering hurdles and the resignation earlier this month of Bill Weihl, the leader of Google’s clean-energy team, are also thought to have contributed to the decision, which was part of an end-of year cull that saw seven ventures dropped. “In addition, we’ve reached a point in our engineering projects where we’re facing new challenges related to our solar-receiver design. At this point, other institutions seem better positioned than Google to take this work to the next level,” a Google spokesperson told Recharge.
However, Google has insisted that, despite rumours to the contrary, it will not be walking away from the US$850 million it has committed to other renewable projects, such as the 392MW Ivanpah solar power-tower project.