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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions

Move Over Cheap and plentiful coal -- You're getting Googleized

Google and HP dive into renewable energy to reduce their costs and foster community-wide climate change reduction

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solar thermal energy generation As part of a renewable energy revolution strategy, Google and its philanthropic arm will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into lowering the cost of producing electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and sun.

Larry Page's goal is to lower the cost of solar power by 25 to 50 percent. The Mountain View, CA company will initially harvest solar electricity to meet its own needs and sell power to other users or license the technology that emerges from its initiative, dubbed "Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal."

Diversification From Computing to Energy

The concept of an Internet company diversifying into the alternative-energy business isn’t as incongruous as it might seem. The company’s ever-expanding power needs are one of the founders' biggest worries, and Page and co-founder Sergey Brin have long been interested in electric cars and other inventions related to alternative energy.

Alternative energy technologies are also very computing-intensive to track sunlight throughout the day, measure and monitor energy consumption, and optimize usage. Google is now hiring engineers and energy experts to lead the research and development, first focusing on solar thermal technology and enhanced geothermal systems. They will search for breakthroughs that apply their expertise in deigning and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at a globally significant scale -- cost efficiently.

Al Gore, the world renowned advocate of global warming solutions, is been a Google adviser and has influenced Google’s decision to accelerate its investment in renewable energy.

The push into the energy industry serves as another reminder of Google’s belief that it can harness technology to make the world a better place.

"As Google grows, we don’t want the business to become part of the problem. We want to be part of the solution," said Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google’s philanthropic arm,

Foundation Investments in Renewable Energy Companies will invest "hundreds of millions" in companies specializing in renewable energy, Page said. The philanthropic arm, which sits under the umbrella of the Google Foundation, will draw upon its holdings of nearly $2 billion worth Google’s stock. The foundation is working with eSolar Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., and Makani Power Inc. of Alameda, CA on promising technologies. eSolar specializes in solar thermal power which replaces the fuel in traditional power plants while Makani is developing high-altitude wind energy extraction technologies.

Toward that end, Google aims to produce one gigawatt of power from renewable energy at prices below the rates of electricity generated at coal-burning plants -- and within years, not decades. One gigawatt power would be enough to supply the needs of a city the size of San Francisco.

Google intends to spend at least $20 million next year to finance renewable energy research and hire more experts in the field.

HP Develops Solar Power for Company and Employee Installations

HP also reports that they are delving deeper into renewables by building a solar power installation at a San Diego, CA facility and buying enough renewable energy in Ireland to satisfy 90 percent of its needs there. HP anticipates that the solar array in San Diego will save the company about $750,000 in the next 15 years. Under an agreement with SunPower, HP employees also will be able to install home solar systems using rebates from both SunPower and HP.

In Ireland, HP will source more than 80 gigawatt-hours of wind-derived energy from Airtricity, which will save the company some $40,000 over the span of the year-long contract.

SOURCES: Associated Press and GreenBiz

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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