Last month, Google announced plans to invest $5 billion in an undersea transmission cable that will give a tremendous boost to wind energy development along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Called the Atlantic Wind Connection, the cable, at roughly 350 miles long, will act as a energy highway, connecting wind farms (as they get developed) to cities like Philadelphia, New York, Washington, DC, and Boston. The potential coming with the cable is about 6,000 MW of wind energy. The cable will also help prevent NIMBY lawsuits, as wind farms may more easily be built farther out to sea (up to 15 miles, according to one estimate), making their obstruction of the view from shore negligible.
The investment (as well as Google’s other ventures in green technologies like alternative transportation) has drawn descriptions such as “kooky,” but who are we to think there’s anything that Google can’t handle? In addition, the company is garnering some tremendous PR. According to Seth Weintraub (Associated Press), “Projects like these aren’t just to make the electricity that Google needs more reliable and less expensive (and a return on their investment), it also helps foster an environmental image for Google which is much more valuable than any profits they’ll receive.”
To be clear, Google is not investing directly in wind energy in this case. It is merely facilitating the creation of wind farms by other companies by providing them ready access to waiting markets. In this way, it remains disentangled from NIMBY lawsuits funded by fossil fuel companies about concerns over the view, should there be more of these than what we’ve seen just for Cape Wind.
For small business owners like me, I see this as a wonderful development, and whether it’s philanthropic or turns into a profitable cash cow for Google is irrelevant to me. What it means is that my advertising budget for my company has shifted entirely from a mix of sources to almost exclusively Google. I’m not sure how many others like me are out there, but I want to make very clear that I’m a big fan of “voting with our dollars,” and with investments like this, Google has earned my vote.
Scott Cooney is the developer of a GBO Hawai’i, a new Triple Bottom Line board game, where players are impact investors helping Hawai’i transition away from oil and imported foods, and the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill).
Photo courtesy slaunger on Flickr Creative Commons