Google Continues Its Investments in Renewable Energy

Although Google is a tech-company with huge, energy-intensive data-centers, they are also pretty clued in about sustainability. Through the years, they have been investing heavily in renewable energy technology, not only as part of their CSR but also because it makes business sense for them.

Last year, they released details about their carbon footprint and their report discussed their plans to make their data-centers more energy-efficient. Their focus on renewable energy is tremendous and although they are not directly involved, they have supported many projects through investments.

A few months ago, the company set up a $75 million fund that will be used to set up solar panels in 3,000 homes in California, Colorado and Arizona. Google also invested $168 million in Brightsource Energy’s project in the Mojave Desert.  Recently, they have announced a $94 million investment in a group of four solar projects by Recurrent Energy. With this latest announcement, Google’s investments in renewable energy totals almost $1 billion.

According to Google, “the energy produced by this project is already contracted for 20 years with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). SMUD recently created a feed-in tariff program (FIT) to help green the grid for Sacramento-area residents. We’re excited that these projects are the first to be built under the program.”

All the four projects combined will have a capacity of 88 megawatts and will provide electricity straight to the grid. They are estimated to have enough output to power about 13,000 US homes. Apart from solar energy, Google has also invested in wind farms. Last year, they invested $100m in the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon which is due to be completed this year. When it opens, it will be the world’s largest producing 845MW with 338 wind turbines, each producing about 2.5MW of energy.

Google has also used its mapping technology to tap into the geothermal energy market. Through its philanthropic arm , Google has invested nearly $10.5 million into three projects researching advanced geothermal power. They have also helped to propel the Electric Ford Focus by purchasing the very first car on the market.

Google  announced in 2011 that they have been carbon neutral since 2007 and this is without ever releasing a CSR report. Their investments in the renewable energy sector supports their vision to become one of the greenest Fortune 500 companies around. In order for renewable energy to gain ground, private companies are as responsible for pushing innovation as government entities.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

2 responses

  1. “Private companies are as responsible for pushing innovation as government entities.” In the case of Google versus the Government, perhaps it’s fair to say they’re doing a much better job too!

  2. On the
    press release it says the plant offsets 160M  kWh for 13k homes so that
    give 12300kWh annual per home. That would also be 1.4kW continuous. 

    Wow that is over twice my home usage even with electric cooking. Are
    these homes using electric heat or what? Haven’t they heard about CFLs
    yet. I always thought Ca used less electricity than the rest of us.

    For 90210 (random choice)  the electric rate at 14.3c/kWh would give $1760/year.

    Using the solar calculator at solar-estimate org I plugged in  90210  
    12300kWh, and 100% offset, no rebates and I got $47800 for the full
    cost or just $2870/yr at  6% interest. 

    The press release doesn’t say how much the true cost of the plant is
    so Google is only kicking in a slice, but $47800*13k is about $621M
    which is $34/W for rooftop. 

    A grid level solar power plant would cost much more per home with
    much higher rated materials, maybe  25% more.  It would have been way
    worse in the NE about 7/5 times worse on top.

    If this was a regular base load plant it would be called an 18.2MW
    plant (13*1.4) and now it doesn’t seem quite so big. The 88MW is just
    the nameplate with a derating factor of 5.

    Also the semiconductor industry can’t build 1000 * more solar because
    of the limits of certain materials needed like say Indium Tin oxide,
    various rare earths needed in the manufacture. 
    And what is the chosen mechanism to stabilize the intermittent sunshine since carbon and nuclear are the enemy of the greens.

    In fact if solar is so good, why doesn’t a single solar company use
    it for all its energy needs to make the next set of panels. If it did
    the illusion would be broken.

    Back in 1974 the nuclear industry built a 540MW plant for $75M or
    $340M in today’s dollar which would have given 63c/W or about 50* better
    than roof top solar or better still for grid solar. 

    Today the industry says that Small Modular Reactors mass produced in
    factories would be about $4.2/W and that likely includes decommission
    back to the factory where it came from. 

    Even in China it already is $2/W with a US designed GE AP1000 building them in 2yrs.

    To go carbon free it isn’t necessary to buy energy at $34/W and
    higher, it can be done for a few $ if people would get past their
    irrational fear of what they don’t understand.

    And still the “flowcharts llnl gov” still says that solar is only
    0.1% of the entire US supply of energy while nuclear is at 21%.

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