Google, best known to Internet users for its ubiquitous search engine, put quite a bit of the money it made into green energy projects. Yesterday, Tuesday, November 22, 2011, the company announced that it is abandoning its effort to make renewable energy cheaper than coal (RE<C). Google’s Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl, said in 2009 that he expected to demonstrate within a few years working technology that could produce renewable energy at a cheaper price than coal. Weihl is no longer with Google.
The plan to end green energy projects represents the third “spring cleaning” announcement that Google has made since Google co-founder Larry Page re-took control in April, 2011, from Eric Schmidt.
Google had a $100 million stake in the Oregon Shepherds Flat wind project. It also had large stakes in Solar City and Clean Power Finance residential photovoltaic (PV) companies, Alta Wind Energy Center Mojave Desert wind project, Atlantic Wind Connection project, the Peace Gardens wind farms in North Dakota, and Makani Power, an Alameda, Calif. startup that claims to harness electricity from wind turbines mounted on kites. Google is also heavily invested in BrightSource, a Robert Kennedy, Jr. project that received a Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee. No word yet on the fates of these projects.
Regarding the reason for abandoning the projects, Google said it is dropping development of “solar thermal” electricity because solar thermal cannot keep pace with the rapid price decline of photovoltaic solar technology. “The installed cost of solar photovoltaic technology has declined dramatically over the past few years, making solar photovoltaic technology a compelling choice for consumers,” Google Fellow and senior vice president of operations Urs Hölzle said in a blog post. Google has increased its investment in renewable energy technologies developed by others, investing $850 million to date into solar power projects, wind farms, and other projects.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if it was only Google that had to suffer the losses of poor investments in solar power? But no, our federal government “invested” taxpayer money into the solar energy industry for us, and now we’re all down a few dollars.
But that’s just my opinion.