Google's Stunning New Initiative: Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal
- "Google.com and Google.org have just announced
one of the most promising new initiatives to
address the global climate crisis. I hope the
grandchildren of today's adults will someday look
back and say this was a turning point in
commercializing the cleaner/cheaper energy solutions that saved our world."
-- Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars.org
Google.com founded the Google Foundation in 2005,
and then established Google.org, with 1% of the
company's original equity and 1% of profits.
Google.org, which can both invest and donate, is focusing initially on:
# Climate change
# Public health
# Global development
As CalCars-News readers know, Google.org's first
project in Climate change is RechargeIT, launched
in June 2006 to promote PHEVs and V2G
technologies. The program included a PHEV fleet,
grants to several organizations including CalCars
and a $10M investment program: of 350 companies
responding to the Request for Proposals, 40 are
now in the second round. At the same time, the
company launched initiatives for efficiency in
computing operations, solar power and other measures to "green" its facilities.
Now both Google.com and Google.org take the next
step -- and it's potentially of far greater
significance. If we take as a given that we will
increasingly electrify not only vehicles but
everything that directly uses fossil fuels, at
the same time as we improve efficiency throughout
the global economy, the arrow points to cleaning
the grid as the necessary corollary.
The next step is called "RE<C," meaning
"Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal." This is
the ultimate challenge. NYTimes columnist Tom
Friedman and others have said that renewable
energy won't succeed until it meets the "China
price" -- that is, until it's cost-competitive
with coal in China (and also in India and
globally). Once this happens, it's no longer a
question of moral appeals to "do the right thing," but instead to do what pays.
Getting to the point where renewable energy can
win in the marketplace involves both business and
political strategies. We know there's no level
playing field in the marketplace. Over a century,
the priorities, resources, incentives, loan
guarantees, infrastructure support and
straight-out subsidies have gone overwhelmingly
to "big carbon" -- oil, natural gas and coal
(along with massive support and insurance
programs to fund nuclear power). The process of
changing those priorities (and the research,
development and demonstration programs of the
Department of Energy (DOE) that follow them), continues in fits and starts.
Now we're seeing a second wave in which new
technologies finally have the potential to
challenge fossil fuels. That's what this RE<C is
about. We can count on Google.org Google.com
being smart about how each of them fits together in this new program.
Of course, Google isn't the only player in this
area: corporate and venture capital investment in
CleanTech is expanding at a breakneck pace. Just
as we think there's nothing better or plug-in
cars than helping to encourage the start of the
Great Automotive Race of the 21st Century, we're
hoping that Google's new program will not only
succeed on its own but will catalyze new waves of innovation globally.
Below we reprint on one convenient page four Google pages:
1. RE<C HOMEPAGE
Powering a clean energy revolution
At Google, were committed to helping build a clean energy future.
Clean and affordable energy is a growing need for
our company, so were excited about launching
RE<C, a strategic initiative whose mission is to
develop electricity from renewable sources
cheaper than electricity produced from coal.
Initially, this project to create renewable
energy cheaper than coal will focus on advanced
solar thermal power, wind power technologies, and
enhanced geothermal systems but well explore
other potential breakthrough technologies too.
Were busy assembling our own internal research
and development group and hiring a team of
engineers and energy experts tasked with building
1 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is
cheaper than coal. (Thats enough electricity to
power a city the size of San Francisco.) Googles
R&D effort will begin with a significant effort
on solar thermal technology, and will also
investigate enhanced geothermal systems and other areas.
Supporting Breakthrough Technologies
In conjunction with the RE<C major research and
development initiative, Google.org will make
strategic grants and investments in organizations
working to produce renewable energy at a cost
below that of coal-fired power plants.
Google.org is already working with two innovative
corporations who are building potentially
breakthrough technologies, and we look forward to
collaborating with other members of the renewable
energy field, including companies, R&D laboratories, and universities.
* eSolar Inc. specializes in solar thermal
power. Solar thermal technology replaces the
fuel in a traditional power plant with heat
produced from solar energy, and has great
potential to produce utility-scale power that is cheaper than coal.
* Makani Power Inc. is developing high-altitude
wind energy extraction technologies aimed at
harnessing the worlds most powerful wind
resources. Capturing just a fraction of available
high-energy wind would be sufficient to supply
current global electricity needs.
Google's Green Commitment
This current initiative is just the next step in
Googles continuing commitment to a clean and
green energy future. We have been working hard on
energy efficiency and making our business environmentally sustainable.
Last spring we announced that we would be carbon
neutral for 2007 and beyond, and were on track
to meet this goal. Weve taken concrete steps to
reduce our carbon footprint and accelerate
improvements in green technology. For example,
through design improvements and the adoption of
power-saving technologies, such as evaporative
cooling, we have made great strides to bolster
the efficiency of our data centers the
facilities that store the computers that enable
Google to deliver accurate search results at
lightning speed. Weve also reduced the carbon
footprint of our building and office operations -
for example, by replacing incandescent bulbs with
higher-efficiency lighting, and maximizing the
use of natural light. And earlier this year we
flipped the switch at our Mountain View
headquarters on one of the largest corporate
solar panel installations in the United States.
In addition to greening our own business, were
also cooperating with members of the tech
community to improve efficiency on a broader
scale. In 2007, we teamed with Intel and other
industry partners to form the Climate Savers
Computing Initiative, a group which advocates the
design and adoption of less wasteful computing
infrastructure. (In November 2007, CSCI achieved
a new milestone when we signed on our very first
public sector partners, the state governments of Minnesota and Kansas.)
Got questions? Weve got answers.
For more details on Googles continuing
commitment to a clean energy future, please see our FAQs page.
And for broadcast-standard video and other
multimedia files related to our announcement of
RE<C, please visit http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/index.html.
Why is Google so interested in renewable energy?
In 2006, non-hydro renewable energy sources
supplied less than 2% of the worlds energy
consumption, in part because of the relatively
high cost of production. Renewable energy isnt
as cost-competitive or widely available as fossil
fuels, so Google (and most of the rest of the
world) must rely on carbon-based power sources of electricity.
A number of organizations are working to bring
down the price of renewable energy to be
cost-competitive with coal. Google wants to apply
our capital and engineering skills to join this important endeavor.
Why the goal of 1 gigawatt of energy? Is that how
much power Google needs? This initiative is not
just about creating clean, affordable electricity
for Google - though we are keenly interested in
making our business as environmentally
sustainable as possible. If successful, this
effort would likely provide a path to replacing a
substantial portion of the worlds electricity
needs with renewable energy sources. We want to
do our part, but that wont be enough alone to
thwart climate change; we need a worldwide green
electricity revolution to do that.
Why is Google focusing its R&D on solar thermal
technology? Solar thermal systems convert heat
from the sun into steam that powers electric
generators. And solar thermal plants are
efficient they naturally generate the most
power during the peak electricity demand periods
of the summer months. Google believes that solar
thermal technology has strong potential to
produce utility-scale power at low cost.
What has prompted your collaboration with eSolar?
eSolar is working to develop solar thermal
technology based on super-efficient design and a
large enough scale to compete in the market with
carbon-based electricity like coal. We believe
that eSolar's approach has great potential to
produce utility-scale power cheaper than coal.
Read more about eSolars technology at http://www.esolar.com/.
What is high-altitude wind power all about? There
is enough available wind energy to power the
world's current energy needs. If we can tap into
this vast energy source - particularly powerful
high-altitude winds - we can power the globe.
What made you decide to invest in Makani Power?
Makani Power is led by an incredible team which
includes MacArthur award winner Saul Griffith,
PhD and Don Montague, the father of kite
surfing. We are pleased with the progress they
have made and look forward to ongoing
collaboration. Read more about Makani Power at http://www.makanipower.com/.
What is enhanced geothermal technology? The
heat stored deep beneath the surface of the earth
is potentially a vast resource of widely
available renewable energy. Tapping the earth's
heat through the use of "Enhanced Geothermal
Systems" (EGS) is historically under-funded and
only a handful of projects exist. Google plans to
accelerate the development and adoption of this promising technology.
The earth's enormous resource of geologically
stored heat is available anywhere. EGS uses
advanced heat mining technology to extract energy
from the earth's crust beyond the limitations of
conventional geothermal systems. Since
conventional geothermal systems require the
pre-existing combination of high heat, steam or
water, and permeable rock -- a combination
limited in nature -- the potential for
conventional geothermal energy to be a major
portion of our energy mix is somewhat limited.
EGS, however, overcomes the limitations of
conventional geothermal systems by replicating
the required conditions through geo-engineering.
EGS would therefore unlock the much greater
geothermal potential of heat stored in deep hot dry rocks.
Why geothermal? EGS has the potential to provide
baseload power cheaper than coal, could
conceivably be deployed almost anywhere, and is
essentially limitless in supply. Most
importantly, EGS has a relatively small footprint
and virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. EGS
development has been limited mostly by the lack
of research interest and commercialization
funding - not technology. According to a recent
report from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) while further advances are
needed, none of the known technical and economic
barriers limiting widespread development of EGS
are considered to be insurmountable. For more
information, please see
Google's Goal: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal
Creates renewable energy R&D group and supports breakthrough technologies
Mountain View, Calif. (November 27, 2007)
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced a new
strategic initiative to develop electricity from
renewable energy sources that will be cheaper
than electricity produced from coal. The newly
created initiative, known as RE<C, will focus
initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind
power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems
and other potential breakthrough
technologies. RE<C is hiring engineers and
energy experts to lead its research and
development work, which will begin with a
significant effort on solar thermal technology,
and will also investigate enhanced geothermal
systems and other areas. In 2008, Google expects
to spend tens of millions on research and
development and related investments in renewable
energy. As part of its capital planning process,
the company also anticipates investing hundreds
of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable
energy projects which generate positive returns.
"We have gained expertise in designing and
building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities
by building efficient data centers," said Larry
Page, Google Co-founder and President of
Products. "We want to apply the same creativity
and innovation to the challenge of generating
renewable electricity at globally significant
scale, and produce it cheaper than from coal."
Page added, "There has been tremendous work
already on renewable energy. 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. We are aware of
several promising technologies, and believe there are many more out there."
Page continued, "With talented technologists,
great partners and significant investments, we
hope to rapidly push forward. 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." (One
gigawatt can power a city the size of San Francisco.)
"If we meet this goal," said Page, "and
large-scale renewable deployments are cheaper
than coal, the world will have the option to meet
a substantial portion of electricity needs from
renewable sources and significantly reduce carbon
emissions. We expect this would be a good business for us as well."
Coal is the primary power source for many around
the world, supplying 40% of the world's
electricity. The greenhouse gases it produces
are one of our greatest environmental challenges.
Making electricity produced from renewable energy
cheaper than coal would be a key part of reducing
global greenhouse-gas emissions.
"Cheap renewable energy is not only critical for
the environment but also vital for economic
development in many places where there is limited
affordable energy of any kind," added Sergey
Brin, Google Co-founder and President of Technology.
Strategic Investments and Grants
"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's philanthropic
arm, "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."
Working with RE<C, Google.org will make strategic
investments and grants that demonstrate a path
toward producing energy at an unsubsidized cost
below that of coal-fired power plants. Google
will work with a variety of organizations in the
renewable energy field, including companies, R&D
laboratories, and universities. For example,
Google.org is working with two companies that
have promising scalable energy technologies:
* eSolar Inc., a Pasadena, CA-based company
specializing in solar thermal power which
replaces the fuel in a traditional power plant
with heat produced from solar energy. eSolar's
technology has great potential to produce
utility-scale power cheaper than coal. For more
information, please visit
* Makani Power Inc., an Alameda, CA-based
company developing high-altitude wind energy
extraction technologies aimed at harnessing the
most powerful wind resources. High-altitude wind
energy has the potential to satisfy a significant
portion of current global electricity needs. For
more information on Makani Power, please visit
Today's announcement represents just the latest
steps in Google's commitment to a clean and green energy future.
Google has been working hard on energy efficiency
and making its business environmentally
sustainable. Last spring the company announced
its intention to be carbon neutral for 2007, and
is on track to meet that goal. To this end, the
company has taken concrete steps to reduce its
carbon footprint and accelerate improvements in green technology, including:
* Developing cutting-edge energy efficiency
technology to power and cool its data centers in
the U.S. and around the world.
* Generating electricity for its Mountain
View campus from a 1.6 Megawatt corporate solar
panel installation, one of the largest in the U.S.
* Accelerating development and adoption of
plug-in vehicles through the RechargeIT
initiative, including a $10 million request for
investment proposals (http://www.google.org/recharge/)
* Joining with other industry leaders in
2007 to form the Climate Savers Computing
Initiative, a consortium that advocates the
design and use of more energy-efficient computers
and servers (http://www.climatesaverscomputing.org/).
* Working on policies that encourage
renewable energy development and deployment, such
as a U.S. Renewable Energy Standard, through Google.org.
For more information on Google's commitment to a
clean energy future, see http://www.google.com/renewable-energy
For broadcast-standard video and other multimedia
files for the announcement, see http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/index.html
For more information on recruitment for RE<C, see
Webcast and Conference Call Information
Google's renewable energy initiative call begins
today at 9:00 AM (PT) / 12:00 PM (ET). A replay
of the call will be available beginning at 11:30
PM (ET) today through midnight Tuesday, December
4th, 2007 by calling 888-203-1112 in the United
States or 719-457-0820 for calls from outside the
United States. The required confirmation code for the replay is 2205214
Google is committed to helping build a clean
energy future, and we need your help.
Business as usual will not deliver low-cost,
clean energy fast enough to avoid potentially
catastrophic climate change. We need a clean
energy revolution that will deliver breakthrough
technologies priced lower than carbon-intensive
alternatives such as coal. Google is launching an
effort to develop electricity from renewable
energy sources that costs less than coal. We will
take a build and buy approach -- we are
developing an internal R&D effort and will be
working with and making investments in companies
with potential for scalable breakthrough technologies.
Our newly created initiative to create renewable
energy cheaper than coal, known as RE<C, will
explore R&D and investments in advanced solar
thermal power, wind power technologies, and
enhanced geothermal systems, and will consider
other breakthrough technologies. RE<C is hiring
engineers and energy experts to lead its research
and development work, which will begin with a
significant effort on solar thermal technology.
We are looking for a world-class team to lead
this effort. We need creative and motivated
entrepreneurs and technologists with expertise in a broad range of areas.
To find out more details and apply online, please
visit these sites for more details about specific positions:
* Renewable Energy Engineer
* Head of Renewable Energy Engineering
* Director, Green Business Strategy & Operations
* Director of Other
If you have relevant expertise in other areas
beyond these specific positions, please send an
email with your resume to energy@....
Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:
land acquisition and management
energy project development
mechanical and electrical engineering
thermodynamics and control systems
physics and chemistry
Smart generalists who think they fit should also
apply by sending their resume to energy@....
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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