That is GREAT news! I'd bet that Google and other profit-making enterprises, spending moderate amounts of their own money, are much more likely to hit "pay dirt" that all the government investment in the world.
"Google's Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl said the odds of success had gone up in the last year or so from a long shot to a real possibility of demonstrating working technology in a few years. 'It is even odds, more or less, I would say,' he said in an interview with Reuters. 'In, you know, three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there.'"
Google plans to use "solar thermal" technology that generates steam to drive electrical generators, rather than photo cells that turn sunlight directly into electrical power.
Wikipedia has a fine item about solar thermal and they include a number of photos. The first photo above shows a parabolic trough of mirrors. They reflect sunlight to a fluid pipe that is most likely inside an evacuated tube to reduce convective heat loss. The second photo above shows an array of flat mirrors that reflect sunlight to a central collector. In both cases, the collected heat is turned into steam to drive electrical generators.
A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING?
As readers of this blog know, I am a "realist" on global warming. I acknowledge that we have had significant actual warming of about 0.5ºC over the past 150 years and I am concerned about the rapid increase in atmospheric CO2. While I do not believe human activities are responsible for more than about 0.1ºC of this warming, and I do not think we can do much about that 0.1ºC on a practical level, I do believe we should take conservative actions to reduce the continuing rapid rise of CO2. Solar energy (along with nuclear, wind, and biomass) is one carbon-free avenue we should explore.
I commend Google for their work in this area!