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December 04, 2007
Jolly Green Giant: Google Gives the Green Light to Alternative Energy
    by Anne Moore Odell

Google promises millions of dollars to create inexpensive renewable energy.


Google (ticker: GOOG) is greatly expanding its green footprint, with the announcement of its new renewable energy initiative dubbed RE. The name stands for "renewable energy less than coal" with Google working to support, invent, and invest in energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity created from the pollution-heavy coal.

Google and
Google.org-Google's philanthropic partner-anticipates investing hundreds of millions of dollars in what it considers "breakthrough technologies," including geothermal power, solar thermal power, and wind power.

This new initiative will draw on Google's experience in creating and building its energy-efficient data centers that are already in place. Google plans to build on the extensive work already done in renewable and green energy fields.

In the Official Google Blog, Larry Page, Co-Founder and President of Products writes, "Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal. Solar thermal technology, for example, provides a very plausible path to providing renewable energy cheaper than coal. We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green."

In 2008 alone, the Internet search company plans to invest tens of millions of dollars, in part, with the hiring of 20 to 30 engineers, scientists, and others to help investigate and create these technologies. Currently, Google has jobs openings listed for Renewable Energy Engineer, Head of Renewable Energy Engineering, Director, Green Business Strategy & Operations, Director of Other and Investments Manager for RE
Page writes, "To lead this effort, we're looking for a world-class team. We need creative and motivated entrepreneurs and technologists with expertise in a broad range of areas, including materials science, physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, land acquisition and management, power transmission and substations, construction, and regulatory issues."

Google isn't gazing into a hazy crystal ball for when this inexpensive energy source will be on-line. Google says that it is planning to create this cheap alternative energy in the next several years. It plans to generate one "gigawatt" of renewable energy that costs less to produce than a gigawatt of coal-fed energy. A "gigawatt" is defined as a billion watts, which is the amount of power it takes to power a city the same size as San Francisco according to Google.

As Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin wrote on the Google Blog, "It is unreasonable to think that people are going to stop traveling or using electricity. Technology is the answer."

One of the goals of RE
Another reason behind RE
A positive financial return is one of the other important underlying reasons for Google's investment in renewable energy.

Google.org's Executive Director, Dr. Larry Brilliant, explained, "Google.org's hope is that by funding research on promising technologies, investing in promising new companies, and doing a lot of R&D ourselves, we may help spark a green electricity revolution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than coal."

Part of the investment in alternative energy will come from the Google.org's three million shares of Google stock it received when it was launched by Google.

Along side RE
Google's Mountain View campus already has one of the largest solar panel installations in the US. However, Google doesn't have any plans to become a green power company, but rather it plans to license out the renewable technologies it helps create. It also looks to create partnerships with renewable energy companies.

In the Official Google Blog, Page writes, "Our new initiative isn't just about Google's energy needs; we're seeking to accelerate the pace at which clean energy technologies are developing, so they can rival the economics of coal quickly."

Some of Google's current green partners include the RechargeIT, an initiative that works to develop plug-in vehicles in which Google has already invested $10 million and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which works to create more energy-efficient computers.

Gregory Miller, Managing Director, Investments, Google.org posted to the Official Google blog, "last summer we announced an RFP (request for investment proposals) as part of our RechargeIT aiming to accelerate the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology. . . We selected just under 40 companies in categories including batteries, components and vehicle-to-grid solution to advance to the next round of review. Look for us to announce investments in some of these interesting companies during the first quarter of 2008."

Google's clean energy website also lists two companies it is partnering with on the RE


 

 
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