Thursday, December 06, 2007

Google Wants To Make Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal

Google just announced an initiative to develop electricity from clean sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal. In true geek fashion, they’re calling it “RE < C” or “Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal.” The search giant will be looking to hire between 20 and 30 engineers and experts to develop renewable power technology from sources like solar thermal, wind power and enhanced geothermal systems. On a conference call, Google co-founder Larry Page said the initiative would spend “tens of millions of dollars on R&D,” and ultimately hope to produce a “gigawatt of renewable energy capacity,” in years, not decades.

Page said that Google (GOOG) will use its knowledge of designing power-hungry data centers to tackle the challenge of researching and productizing clean energy. The company hopes to deploy clean energy sources for its own uses for its data centers (many of which are powered by coal plants) and possibly license that technology to other customers. Bill Weihl, Google’s green energy czar, said on the call that the company is looking to develop clean energy sources at a cost in the range of one to three cents per kilowatt hour. Coal, by comparison, can cost somewhere around four cents per kilowatt hour.

Google says it also plans to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” in renewable energy projects and startups.
More power to them.

I think that making RE<C is arguably the greatest challenge of our century. When it happens it will solve the global warming problem, alleviate all energy scarcity issues, and make electricity cheap enough to give access to everyone in the 3rd world. Not bad for a sideline business to an internet search company.

I do wonder if they are bitting off a little more than they can chew with this one. This is a difficult problem and I am not sure a couple of hundred million dollars will solve it. I still think RE<C won't happen until around 2030. On the other hand, this investment could rival that of the federal government and who wants to bet against Google? More smart people working on this problem with strong financing sounds good to me.

via Earth2Tech

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