Google Gets Serious About Clean Energy

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), the company that built an internet empire by becoming the most-recognized search engine on the web, says it wants to make renewable energy more cost effective than coal.


In 2008, Google said it expects to spend tens of millions on a venture dubbed Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal. The collaboration between Google, Inc. and the company’s philanthropic organization, Google.org will initially focus on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies, according to a release.


The company says in the years ahead it intends to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on breakthrough renewable energy projects that promise to generate positive returns.


“Our goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. We are optimistic this can be done in years, not decades,” Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and president of products, said in a statement


One gigawatt would be enough electricity to power a city the size of San Francisco.


Google, which says it is on track to be carbon neutral for 2007, first ventured into the renewable energy field to bring efficient design to its energy intensive data centers. The company also installed one of the largest solar installations owned by any U.S. company on the roofs of its headquarters buildings in Mountain View, California.


The company says, in addition to making sound financial investments in emerging technologies, it hopes to bring creativity and leadership to the push for renewable energy at a critical point in the fight against global warming.


“Lots of groups are doing great work trying to produce inexpensive renewable energy. We want to add something that moves these efforts toward even cheaper technologies a bit more quickly.¬†Usual investment criteria may not deliver the super low-cost, clean, renewable energy soon enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Dr. Larry Brilliant, Executive Director of Google.org, “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.”


In addition to hiring engineers and energy experts to work on internal projects, Google says it will make investments and grants to companies, R&D laboratories and universities that demonstrate a path toward producing energy at an unsubsidized cost below that of coal-fired power plants.


Two companies mentioned included Pasadena, California-based eSolar Inc., which specializes in solar thermal power; and Makani Power Inc., an Alameda, CA-based company developing high-altitude wind energy.


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