July 28, 2008

The Greening of Google

Melanie Pahlmann reporting

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The Google guys are making good on promises to invest millions of dollars in renewable energy. The computer giant just announced that their philanthropic arm, Google.org, will invest $20 million in the next year on renewable energy research.

Their goal is to become a massive force behind the creation of a greener grid, one that will effectively – and quickly – replace the use of coal, which is cheap, plentiful, and the favorite energy source for many states.

Over at Google.org you will see details of the two clean energy programs they're investing in. One they playfully call Renewable Energy "less than" Coal, whose simple aim is develop a 100% renewable energy electricity generation facility that produces 1 gigawatt of energy at a cost below the same amount of electricity produced from coal. In case you're wondering, 1 gigawatt could power a city the size of San Francisco.

For this project, their renewables of choice are solar thermal, wind, and geothermal. Google co-founder Larry Page is particularly fond of solar thermal, and spearheaded the 1.6 megawatt solar installation at their corporate headquarters in Mountain View, CA. (which, despite their certainly altruistic intentions, will earn back its investment in just over 7 years). It is impressive to note that energy produced from their little 1.6 megawatt solar plant has enabled them to reduce their energy consumption from the local grid by 30%.

In the first half of 2008, Google.org gave over $85 million in grants and investments to a variety of research groups and clean energy development companies. $20 million of this has gone directly to the RE less than C project. The remaining is going to projects like their RechargeIT plug-in car development program, Predict and Prevent program, Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services program, and the Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

Learn more about their Herculean efforts at Google.org.