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Google's Stunning New Initiative: Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal

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  • Felix Kramer
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 27, 2007
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      "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:
      RE<C Website
      FAQ
      Press release
      Jobs announcement


      1. RE<C HOMEPAGE
      Powering a clean energy revolution
      At Google, we’re committed to helping build a clean energy future.
      http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/index.html

      Clean and affordable energy is a growing need for
      our company, so we’re 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 we’ll explore
      other potential breakthrough technologies too.

      We’re 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. (That’s enough electricity to
      power a city the size of San Francisco.) Google’s
      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 world’s 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
      Google’s 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 we’re on track
      to meet this goal. We’ve 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. We’ve 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, we’re
      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? We’ve got answers.

      For more details on Google’s 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.


      FAQs
      http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/faq.html

      Why is Google so interested in renewable energy?
      In 2006, non-hydro renewable energy sources
      supplied less than 2% of the world’s energy
      consumption, in part because of the relatively
      high cost of production. Renewable energy isn’t
      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 world’s electricity
      needs with renewable energy sources. We want to
      do our part, but that won’t 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 eSolar’s 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
      http://geothermal.inel.gov/publications/future_of_geothermal_energy.pdf.


      PRESS RELEASE
      Google's Goal: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal
      http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/pressrel/20071127_green.html

      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
      http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/esolar.pdf.
      * 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
      http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/makani.pdf.

      Ongoing Commitments

      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
      http://www.google.com/jobs/energy/

      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


      RE<C JOBS
      http://www.google.com/jobs/energy/

      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

      Other Positions:
      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:

      • regulatory issues
      • land acquisition and management
      • construction
      • energy project development
      • mechanical and electrical engineering
      • thermodynamics and control systems
      • physics and chemistry
      • materials science

      Smart generalists who think they fit should also
      apply by sending their resume to energy@....

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      http://www.calcars.org
      http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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