The big hurdle has been finding a technology that can match the low cost of fossil fuel. John O'Donnell thinks he has that licked
John O'Donnell started thinking about saving the world 30 years ago. In his first job, in the late 1970s, he worked to harness fusion--the nuclear reaction that powers the sun--at Princeton University's famed Plasma Physics Lab. "The sense was, if it was successful it would change the world," O'Donnell recalls.
t wasn't successful. O'Donnell moved on. Over the years, he started companies that made supercomputers and semiconductors. He lived out of suitcases, raised scores of millions for his companies, and had three kids. But when his Campbell (Calif.) chipmaker was
sold and its operations moved to Shanghai last year, the recently divorced O'Donnell jumped off the roller coaster. "I told myself: 'I have a year to figure out if there is something I could do that would be of use," he says.
He's convinced he has found that something. The idea is to slow global warming and cure the planet's energy woes, not with plasma or windmills or "clean" coal smoke, but with mirrors. Miles and miles of mirrors, to be exact, focusing the rays of the sun onto pipes to heat water to run hulking steam turbines. This so-called solar thermal approach would mean no emissions that cause global warming.
No worries about radioactive waste. No need for coal power, which faces increasingly hostile scrutiny. Not even much need for oil, if plug-in hybrid cars like the Chevrolet Volt start to replace gasoline burners. "I want people to have it in their heads that there is a solution--and it doesn't even mean raising their electric bills," he says....MUCH MORE