No doubt there’s a boom unfolding in the solar energy business.
Here are some of the investors in solar: Google guys Sergei Brin and Larry Page, VC firms Kleiner Perkins and Benchmark Capital, ex-Ebay exec Jeff Skoll, VC Vinod Khosla, Goldman Sachs, Idealab’s Bill Gross, mutual fund families Wellington and Fidelity. They are buying into startups, well-established companies, and others in between. Names like BP and Sharp are betting on solar. The market’s growing by 30-40% a year, albeit off a very small base. Stocks of the publicly traded companies are way up.
All encouraging news. Most of the attention so far has gone to solar photovoltaic panels–those black or blue panels you see on rooftops, which turn light into electricity–but a recent spate of announcements led me to take a look at solar thermal energy in today’s Beyond the Bottom Line column on CNNMoney. Solar thermal power plants use the sun’s heat to heat up water or other liquids, which then drive conventional turbines to make power. Here’s how the column begins:
By now, you’ve probably heard that the solar energy business is booming. Wal-Mart and Tiffany’s, Microsoft and Google, Estee Lauder and Target, Kohl’s and Staples – all use or have announced plans to use solar photovoltaic panels on their rooftops to power their businesses.
But you may not have noticed the arrival – actually, the revival – of another solar technology, called solar thermal. Whereas solar photovoltaic panels are installed directly on buildings and convert sunlight into electricity, solar thermal power uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and heat liquids, which are then used to drive turbines to make electricity.
Solar thermal has as much potential as solar photovoltaics and maybe more because it can be deployed on a large scale–big enough to light up shopping malls or towns, not just a home or a building.
You can read the rest here.