Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Google's Search for Clean Energy" (GOOG)

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

-Kermit the Frog

From MIT's Technology Review:

The Internet giant thought it could help invent cheap renewable power. That wasn't so easy.
Google once brashly believed that its engineers could invent a solution to the world's energy problems. These days, the company has a new strategy: finance less risky clean-energy projects where it can actually make an impact.

Last year, Google invested more than ever in renewable power, spending $880 million to underwrite conventional clean-energy projects such as solar panels on California rooftops. But that isn't the role the company envisioned for itself in 2007, when cofounder and current CEO Larry Page declared that it would get into energy research directly, intending to "rapidly" invent cheap ways to generate "renewable electricity at globally significant scale."

Google believed its creativity and innovation would make the difference. It created an in-house plan to wean the United States off fossil fuel in 22 years. It posted jobs for engineers who could speed up design of renewable-energy projects and put a team to work improving the heliostat, a mirrored device that focuses the sun's rays to make thermal energy. Its philanthropy arm, Google.org, began investing in startups with far-out ideas.

Google's founders were directly involved. One startup, Makani Power, originally planned to move boats using kites, but Page and cofounder Sergey Brin convinced it to pursue high-altitude flying wind turbines instead. "They were pretty fearless," says Makani CEO Corwin Hardham. "They said, 'This is a risky thing, we don't know yet if it's going to work out, but we think this has promise.'"

The company's speedy ways wowed energy experts, as did its goal of producing a gigawatt of renewable electricity at prices competitive with fossil fuels. "Being at Google, it was fascinating to see how rapidly things could scale. I was enthralled by it," says Dan Reicher, Google's former director of climate change and energy initiatives, who left the company in 2010 to head Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. "That struck me as a very fundamental difference—the software world measures time frames in months." In comparison, he notes, solar panels have been available for 30 years but account for less than 1 percent of total U.S. electricity production.

Last November, however, Google killed the program, known as REMORE 
So, in the meantime, the GOOG will not build server farms in California because the price of electricity is too damn high and Larry and Sergey fly around in a double-wide Boeing 767-200:

"Evil," says Google CEO Eric Schmidt, "is what Sergey says is evil."-Source

Here's the plane, via Gizmodo: