The Energy Blog reports that Google is investing in people and companies who have good ideas for making solar energy cheaper than coal.
Esolar_array_2Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced a new strategic initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The newly created initiative, known as RE<C, will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies.The difficulty here is that the odds of a real break through in this area that can be capitalized on is vanishingly small. The reason? Google is not the only pool of money looking for investments in this area.
In 2008, Google expects to spend tens of millions on research and development and related investments in renewable energy. As part of its capital planning process, the company also anticipates investing hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns.
The solar problem like fusion problem is tough. In fact the two problems are similar. Fusion is easy. Collecting solar energy is easy. The hard part with fusion is getting the energy output up to commercial usefulness. And by commercial usefulness I mean selling the electricity for a price people are willing to pay. Solar has the same problem.
With solar the odds of a breakthrough are small because so many people have picked over the pieces. In my opinion the odds of a fusion break through are better. Why? The science involved is not as well understood. Any place you have a knowledge hole the opportunities for a breakthrough are better. However, the risks are also higher. Advances in knowledge may prove that what you thought possible is not.