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Google Goes Green

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the all-that-and-carbon-neutral-too dept.

Google 374

foobsr writes "Google today announced its RE<C project to make renewable energy cheaper than coal in the near future. The company, and its charitable arm google.org, plan to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the initiative. Larry Page stated: 'With talented technologists, great partners and significant investments, we hope to rapidly push forward. Our goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. We are optimistic this can be done in years, not decades.'"

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374 comments

Great scott! (4, Funny)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503359)

1.21 gigawatts? 1.21 gigawatts? Great Scott!

Re:Great scott! (5, Funny)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503403)

Professor Page, are you telling me you built a tiiiime machine, out of a Priiiiius?!

Re:Great scott! (4, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503419)

Coal, and fossil fuels in general, are widely recognized to be almost at, at, or past peak production on a global level, and will therefore become increasingly scarce, and therefore increasingly expensive, as time goes by.

Therefore, anyone wishing to create renewable energy more cost effective than coal doesn't need to do anything beyond keep trying and not get worse, and they will get there eventually.

As far as technical challenges go, this is right up there with "hitting the ground".

Re:Great scott! (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503541)

As coal cost increases, energy cost will increase too. This will drive the cost of anything up - so, while your "cost per energy" target is shifting down, your "cost to build a power generating facility" goes up.
      Still, more ups than downs

Re:Great scott! (1)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503725)

It's called the law of receding horizens.
If your renewable energy source is suposed to be cost competitve at $x a barrel and right now it's $y once you reach $x it turns out the 'cost competitive price' has moved to $z because all of the costs going into it have gone up.

Re:Great scott! (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503975)

problem with your thinking : solar power and wind power cost have been going DOWN (FAST!), not UP.

Re:Great scott! (0, Troll)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504019)

They have been going down because of increassed government(not just united states government) subsidys.

Re:Great scott! (3, Informative)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504087)

uhuh ... nuclear power never got that subsidy ... RIGHT !
Let's put something straight : total subsidies for solar are not even close to those of nuclear.

Re:Great scott! (4, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504077)

Peak Oil [google.com] is debated - have we already reached it, will it be in 10 years, 20 years? I tend to think we are living through it more or less now. However, I heard a representative from BP speak recently [dartmouth.edu] that indicated that, if demand drives the cost of oil up enough, there's enough tar sands and oil shale out there to push peak oil back a long ways. Sure, that's BP talking, and oil shale and tar sands are shit kinds of energy, but it is a facet of the debate.

Peak Coal, on the other hand, is decades or centuries off. The United States has enough coal reserves [wikipedia.org] that we could be energy independent for a few hundred years. China, India, and Russia have lots of reserves [google.com] , too.

Of course, there are prohibitive problems with becoming an all-coal energy economy for a few hundred years. I advocate that we move away from coal (and oil) as fast as possible. The point is, though, that there's still a lot of coal out there.

Petawatts (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503463)

They were actually looking at petawatts. Google link. [google.com]

how do you measure black power (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503493)

in niggerwatts

Re:how do you measure black power (1, Funny)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503835)

Does it make me a bad person if I laughed at that?

I mean I really really tried not to, but it just caught me off guard. :/

Re:how do you measure black power (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21504029)

It only shows you're an implicit racist.

Hmmmm (4, Funny)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503361)

The solution to this problem must be out on the internet somewhere... if only I had a website I could use to try to find it...

Vested interest (3, Interesting)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503369)

Given how much money it costs to keep Google's kit running, it's in their interests to look for cheaper energy. It's an investment they hope will increase future profitability.

Has Bill Gates or Steve Jobs made any similar pledges?

Re:Vested interest (5, Funny)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503531)

Jobs doesn't have to make pledges; they just have to figure out how to convert the radiation of his reality distortion field to energy, and to use the pressure of the smugness from his customers to power iPods. Ballmer is currently busy with research to tap heat from system administrator's heads when updating, and he's already made great strides to put the kinetic energy of chairs in something useful.

Re:Vested interest (0, Offtopic)

ketilwaa (1095727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503607)

That post made my day! Mod +1 funny!

Re:Vested interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503781)

I don't know about posting with aliens in mind. It costs too much in postage to send posts all the way overseas - not to mention the extra energy costs. Much cheaper to just ask the darn "foreigners" to stay the heck off the site. Or maybe we can just build a fence? An internet fence? Might not have to be as tall as that one they want between the US and Mexico. Just has to be wide. Very wide. To block the tubes.

Re:Vested interest (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503921)

Moderation for the day: "-1: Trying too hard"

Re:Vested interest (2, Funny)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503671)

Ah, but what about the hot air from the Apple haters? It must be good for something too!

Re:Vested interest (2, Funny)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503841)

maybe we could round up a few fan boys and point them at a wind turbine and generate some power.

Re:Vested interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503893)

Microsoft also could use the energy of keyboards and mouses clicks and drags from developers.

why name Gates and Jobs? (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503615)

Name their companies. Even then, does it matter? Most of this Google press release is simple headline grabbing. Where are the dollar figures of what is going where? Are they working alongside other large companies trying to do the same or cherry picking companies they can snap up later for their investment?

Frankly Gates doesn't have to do anything in the renewable energy market, what he is doing through his foundation is saving more lives than can be counted, not exploiting current pc trends towards "everything global warming", doing proven work that benefits people today. Hell, his foundation is more important than Microsoft in my book. Trade some "evil" here for worlds of good elsewhere.

As for Apple, they list many iniatives. Why do they have to be energy related to qualify for points? They do a lot in the recycling arena. They make a big thing out of ensuring their equipment is recyclable and is moving to using non-dangerous/polluting means of making it.

Re:why name Gates and Jobs? (1)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503705)

"As for Apple, they list many iniatives"

Name some, I checked and Jobs and Apple don't have their name attached to any significant level of giving. Out of the three, Apple is by far the worst in terms of philanthropy.

Re:why name Gates and Jobs? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504055)

I'm presuming that they also generate (far?) less profit, so why should they be expected to be giving more away than Google or Microsoft? Most people thought Apple was going to die until the iPod became such a success, and they're currently driving back into the OS business. Google just bypassed all that hardware and OS stuff and jumped right into a gaping hole in the internet (decent search) and have managed to make a lot of money from the amount of traffic that they command. The recycling thing and the fact that their products inspire (or force) other companies to try harder is good enough for me. Even though I dont particularly want an iPod or an iPhone, I've always liked Macs themselves, and even though their products are seen to be for the computer iliterate by most people, that just shows that they design their products intuitively, which is a good thing in general (and for those of us that want a little more control, there is always the console and the Apple Developer Toolkit..). Anyway this article isn't about philanthropy, it's about being 'green'. Both are rather admirable for any company (at least when they go above and beyond legal requirements).

Re:why name Gates and Jobs? (1)

TargetBoy (322020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503799)

Frankly Gates doesn't have to do anything in the renewable energy market, what he is doing through his foundation is saving more lives than can be counted, not exploiting current pc trends towards "everything global warming", doing proven work that benefits people today. Hell, his foundation is more important than Microsoft in my book. Trade some "evil" here for worlds of good elsewhere.


The harsh reality is that the more people that survive, the more resources are consumed. Earth is a zero sum game and we are already running negative on sustainability. The Gates Foundation's goals are laudable, but without efforts like these, they will only worsen our problems.

We need to have an Apollo project for renewable energy and subsidize conversion of our automobile industry away from gas. We need cars that have a minimal environmental impact throughout the WHOLE life cycle, not just when used by a consumer.

Re:why name Gates and Jobs? (4, Interesting)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503925)

"Earth is a zero sum game"

That's simply not true, and renewable resources (plants, trees, etc.) are evidence of that. We are not a zero sum game because we have, for all intents and purposes, an inexhaustible supply of energy from the sun. Think back through the chain --> sun causes plants to grow, animals eat plants, etc. We're all solar powered, ultimately.

More efficient exploitation of that energy results in an increase in available resources. Sure, there's a limit, but we have even begun to tap into it, even with existing technology.

That's why projects like Google's are important. Any increase in efficient production of renewable energy ensures that we continue to not be a zero sum game.

There may come a point where no further technological innovation is possible, but it looks like when we get to that advanced state that the population will contract voluntarily. Witness the below-replacement birth rates in first world countries.

Re:why name Gates and Jobs? (1)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504091)

renewable != infinate

The foundation is a joke (1, Offtopic)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503855)

Gate's foundation is an attempt to make ppl like him. It was thought up by his wife ( a marketer ) . How much good does it do? meh. Yes, it spends money on such things as aids research. A little here, and a little there. It is designed to impact the largest market.

But Gates has billions at his disposal. If he wanted to make a bigger impact on the world, he would do things that are beyond other VCs (and even most gov). In particular, he could push massive reaseach/development on Alternative energy. Or how about a high speed maglev (say from NY to Milwaukee, with stops along the way). How about putting together a space company, or even an ocean company?

I am sure that you think that this is silly, but by creating a number of companies like that, he employs a number of ppl who then spend their money. In addition, he could have each of these companies be required to give up a percentage to charity (imagine if a companies like MS gave 1% to charity, which it does not).

Re:The foundation is a joke (4, Informative)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504105)

A little here, and a little there

$29 Billon at the last count [wikipedia.org] . It has the same budget as the entire WHO and dwarfs the amount the US government spends on aid.

Gee, building a maglev train in the richest part of the world's richest country to carry the world's richest, fattest taxpayers, wouldn't THAT be a gift to humanity?

Re:why name Gates and Jobs? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504007)

Gate's foundation, while noble, is a bit like throwing money in to a black hole.
It costs a awful lot for little net difference. People will keep getting sick.

Google's plans are in their best interests so they will wok hard on it and when completed, it will have a massive impact around the world.
Even third world countries can use cheap clean energy.

Google will help everybody instead of a select few.

Re:Vested interest (1)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503689)

It also takes a lot of energy to run chicken plants and high schools and baseball stadiums, but I don't see a lot of companies making the same investment. Our government, especially, should already be doing this.

Re:Vested interest (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503801)

Relatively few chicken plants, high schools and baseball stadiums operate in many parts of the world. Many of them can save energy in various ways like improving insualation, switching to low energy light bulbs.

Google can't do a great deal about the fact that thousands of PCs between them draw a lot of power.

Nuk-u-lar (4, Insightful)

Orne (144925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503379)

Spent fuel -> breeder reactor -> fissionable fuel, and it's already cheaper than coal.

Oh wait, we don't like that kind of renewable resource...

Re:Nuk-u-lar (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503387)

While I agree with you, that really should be the focus short term, I think you may have a bit of an underestimation of the costs of nuclear or a huge overestimation of the costs of coal. Only if you were adding in taxes or other expenses to cover 100% of the carbon emissions would the two even be close. Coal is *cheap*. Thats why its used so much.

Disregard carbon; pay attention to all else (4, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503581)

"Clean" coal is still extremly dirty, EVEN if you ignore the carbon issue. For instance, Clinton had passed a law that was going to force ALL of America's coal plants to cut way back on mercury emissoins. W. killed that almost right away when he took over. The reason is that it was estimated to jump electric prices up by 25%. Bear in mind that Clinton's clean up would not have stopped the mercury, just cut it in half. Right now, even in America, we do not do a good job of cleaning up our emissions, BECAUSE of the costs. And countries like China simply skip it all togehter, even though they have billions in the bank and are giving it to other countries to obtain their resources.

Best thing that America can do is get off coal (and natural gas is not the way to go, but better than coal). Nukes would help.

Re:Disregard carbon; pay attention to all else (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503843)

Clinton never passed a mercury emissions law, and President Bush could not of just killed it if he had. What Clinton did was in December 2000, after Bush has already been elected, was rush out a proposal that according to scientists was technically impossible to achive, besides being extremly expensive. The Clinton proposal was draft only.
Back in 2003 Bush did put out a proposal that could of setup cap and trade policy with a 40% reduction by 2010 and 70% by 2018, when passed, the first ever rules regulating emssions on mercury from coal burning power plants, it was at 29% by 2010.
While like you say nuke would help alot there is no way it is going to happen, far to many environmentalists are against it and they can just keep bringup up Three mile island and chernobyl

It's not renewable (0)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503399)

It's actually fossil fuel, except that instead of being dinosaur-fossil fuel (yeah, I know it's not actual dinos), it's fossil-star fuel. (And solar is different in that it harnesses energy that would be just dissipated away if we don't use it).

Re:Nuk-u-lar (1)

Skrynesaver (994435) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503439)

A figure I have heard which I can provide absolutely no reference for suggests that there is enough Uranium on the planet for about 30 years, were it to totally replace current energy production. I'd be interested in an accurate figure.
The point being the whole renewable thing. Yes, breeder reactors wring the last of the energy out of the original source but ultimately the source dries up/cools down whatever you get the picture. A renewable source is one not dependant on a finite resource.
As to sustainability and long term waste management, that's a whole separate issue.

Re:Nuk-u-lar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503545)

Yes, but if the waste is to be harmful in any way, then it must still contain energy ... so we need generators that actually can run on nuclear waste products.

Re:Nuk-u-lar (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503653)

The 30 years assume that ALL power came from the CHEAP uranium AND that we use the current inefficient approach to using it.

First issue is that there is plenty of uranium on this planet to power the world using current tech for a long time. The reason is that even in the oceans there is uranium.

Bear in mind, that with current approaches to reactors, we use about 2% of the power, and then we waste the rest (which is the reason why it takes 10's of thousands of years to cool down). OTH, if you use a breeder reactor, and keep the cycle going, then you use up about 98-99% of the energy (leaving a small residual that is cool within 150 years). In fact, here in America, if we could switch ALL power to IFR (integral fast reactors), AND had electric cars, AND kept everything inefficient, we would have enough uranium/plutonium in waste that we would not need to dig or buy anything for the next 100 years.

Estimates are that there is about 10000 years of Uranium if it supplies ALL of the worlds energy needs. After that is burned there is thorium, or h2-3. Point being that nukes will last quit a long time.

Re:Nuk-u-lar (2, Informative)

Artraze (600366) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503681)

> breeder reactors wring the last of the energy out of the original source but
> ultimately the source dries up/cools down whatever you get the picture. A
> renewable source is one not dependant on a finite resource.

That's a decent argument, but you need to understand just what a breeder reactor can do.

U-235 is the only natural fissile material, which sucks because it's only about 0.75% of elemental uranium. U-238, which isn't fissile, makes up the remaining 99+% and is basically just dead weight. The basic idea of a breeder reactor, is to pack U-238 around a running reactor. As the (very many!) stray neutrons leave the core, they collide with the U-238 and create Pu-239. This Pu-239 is a fissile material and can then be used in a reactor in place of U-235. There is also a variant that produces U-233 from Th-232.

The point is, that even if we do only have 30 years of U-235, if we breed the U-238 we could extend that to well over 3000 years at our current usage. Throw in the Thorium versions, and energy problems are solved for quite some time. Let's be pessimistic about production results and rising demand and call it about 1000 years. I'd say that in that amount of time we should be able to come up with something better, like fusion or drawing directly from the sun. Or hell, maybe we'll just mine more Uranium from Mars. It's not really a problem that can just be solved straight away. After all, these "renewable" sources require the sun, which ain't exactly renewable itself.

Re:Nuk-u-lar (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503935)

According to some estimates [berkeley.edu] , using an IFR would extend the lifetime of currently-mined Uranium to 500 years, and global supplies of nuclear fuels to over 100,000 years.

There is sufficient fuel to power IFR type facilities for well over 100 thousand years. This results because the IFR is a breeder reactor which can utilize uranium 238. Today's reactors only use uranium 235 which is less than 1% of the uranium found in nature. The IFR, with its fuel reprocessing capability, can use all the uranium. There is enough uranium that has been mined and placed in barrels (uranium 238) for IFR-type plants to provide all the electricity for the United States for over 500 years -- without mining. Also, the IFR can likely reprocess the spent fuel from today's reactors, and use the recovered materials for fuel. Uranium is as abundant in the earth as many of the commonly used materials such as bismuth, cadmium, mercury, silver, etc. In fact the uranium in a typical 1 ton block of granite (concentration of about 5 ppm) is the energy equivalent (if used in the IFR) of 10 tons of coal!

Re:Nuk-u-lar (0, Flamebait)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503465)

I think we should go ahead with nuclear power stations, and put electricity generating treadmills outside. That way when all the hippy 'love the earth' fools that come in their SUVs to campaign with full stomachs, you can generate power from their marches?

Re:Nuk-u-lar (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503811)

I think we should go ahead with nuclear power stations, and put electricity generating treadmills outside. That way when all the hippy 'love the earth' fools that come in their SUVs to campaign with full stomachs, you can generate power from their marches?

Are you insinuating that people shouldn't protest on a full stomach?

Re:Nuk-u-lar (2, Informative)

thanatos_x (1086171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503513)

I want to say there was an article about a week ago on Slashdot debating this issue (of the return of nuclear power plants.) I wouldn't swear on it, but I believe the capital outlay for a new nuclear plant is 3-5 times that of a coal plant for similar production (in addition to needing to be located near a body of water.) The cost for the fuel is less (although as demand would rise this could change).

Factoring in the long run cost of running the plant and the externalities of said plant, nuclear is likely the better route. However you may remember that people are somewhat myopic, though there are apparently plans for 28 new reactors as of 2007.

The obligatory wikipedia link is... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_new_nuclear_power_plants [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nuk-u-lar (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503817)

and it's already cheaper than coal.
until you include the cost of decomissioning the nuclear power station at end of life and then, suddenly, it's very expensive.

gMatrix (3, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503383)

It's going to be some sort of "matrix" where google plugs us all in and harvests renewable energy AND our personal info.

Re:gMatrix (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503453)

I wonder what kind of personal info you've got while plugged in the Matrix.

Row and column?

Re:gMatrix (1)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503539)

i dont know what would be worse in your scenario:

*having your bio energy harvested to power servers (a geeks dream?)

or

*being bombarded by adverts while the above is performed

Re:gMatrix (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503741)

As opposed to:

- Having my bio energy harvested to power the corporation.

- Being bombarded by adverts as soon as I leave the corporation (after being thoroughly spent and released for a short recharging).

Re:gMatrix (5, Insightful)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503621)

The machines in The Matrix story were so dumb.

Skies darkened to block out the Sun so that their solar power sources would be negated? Well, duh. What was stopping them from building taller solar power collectors that were above the black stuff? Neo and Trinity penetrated the layer, didn't they?

Alternatively, they could have used whatever power source the remaining free humans were using: Zion wasn't powered by human batteries, was it?

Worst Plot Hole Ever.

Re:gMatrix (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503699)

Worst Plot Hole Ever.
You clearly need to see more Uwe Boll.

Re:gMatrix (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503731)

Uh, duh, they're environmentally friendly machines descended from the original Googlebot...

Re:gMatrix (1)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503759)

Not to mention that the humans' biological energy had to come from food, which, working up the food chain, gets energy from the sun.

So in order to be extra evil and nasty, they lost energy on every step of the food chain instead of getting it straight from solar.

Yeah that part was dumb.

Re:gMatrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503857)

Zion wasn't powered by human batteries, was it?
The earths core.

Go Google (5, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503389)

These are the kinds of initiatives that one can applaud when they're coming from a public company. Interestingly, this isn't just an idle PR stunt, or vain charity. While Google expects to invest "tens of millions" into pilot projects, they also are committing themselves to investing "hundreds of millions" into those projects that are likely to yield positive returns.

I have spent so long lamenting the short-sightedness of American business, that it's easy to overlook the fact that at least some companies are willing to stake their immediate earnings on potentially much greater gains in the future. It's therefore very nice to see Google at the forefront of energy innovation because, let's face it, as a geek, that's exactly where I'd be pouring a fair portion of my post-billionaire funds. That and space... but alas Brin hasn't decided to finance his own airospace company YET...

Re:Go Google (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503449)

Must... register.... Googlenautics.com before someone else does.

Re:Go Google (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503553)

Two bad the spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a private 767. I am not even and extremist when it comes to things like that. Hey if they wanted a private jet a Gulfstream IV is very nice as is the Citation X. A converted airliner that could carry well over 200 people for your private toy.
Well it makes Hummer owners look down right green.
I guess the non billionaires need to save energy.

Re:Go Google (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503933)

Isn't the 767 bought by the founders of Google with their own money? It would be a bit fishy if bought by Google.

Re:Go Google (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503613)

I agree. This is a good thing that Google is doing for its own interests and for the rest of us and out future. On the topic of energy saving costs I watched a episode on the History channel regarding renewable energy around Earth Day. It had this interesting segment where you can have your house off the grid and gather your own energy from the sun through solar panels or something else. But not only getting energy for yourself you can share the excess energy you don't use with other houses off the grid. So its like a P2P network.

Not that I made any sense here or said anything insightful... --fuckoff

Re:Go Google (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503677)

Interesting is that, being on grid is cheaper for energy sufficiency than being off-grid. Even if you have your production capability, the storage (battery banks) is expensive. Being connected to grid for those no sun, no wind, and so on moments is cheaper than operating a battery bank in the basement

Re:Go Google (2, Interesting)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504097)

Hopefully, off-grid power storage will be part of what they invest in. If hydrogen generation could be done efficiently on site, batteries become a non-issue. We already know that hydrogen can be converted back to electricity when you need it. That's what a hydrogen fuel economy would use it for, right? As a storage medium for power generated in ways that actually produce more power than they use.

Re:Go Google (1)

Geminii (954348) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503685)

Space tech and global buy-in/demand isn't at a tipping point quite yet. There are hints that it's starting to edge in that general direction after a thirty-year hiatus, but it'll probably be another 10-20 years before there's enough interest to warrant heavy investment in private launch tech, nanosats etc.

Re:Go Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503755)

compared to the facebook, vmware type "investments" i'd say this makes sense.

Return (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503847)

Google will probably see a return in the long run. I'm guessing that, next to HR, electricity is probably their second largest expense. Cheaper electricity == cheaper cost of operations. It's good for everybody, except companies that run coal power plants.

Mis-spelling (1)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503411)

According to the article it's "REC", not "RCC"

Google keeping patents on this? (1)

thanatos_x (1086171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503417)

If Google will own the rights to this means of energy production (or producing the equipment to do so, such as solar panels), it'd be a good time to buy Google stock. Owning something that makes energy cheaper than coal and doesn't pollute is something that will be required, not only by our country as we're strapped over the 100$ barrel of oil, but by China, who's growing middle class will desire a cleaner environment rather than simply more stuff.

Anyone who has a patent on this stuff... there's no place it can go but up, so long as cold fusion doesn't come out.

Re:Google keeping patents on this? (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503617)

This initiative is primarily being taken by Google's non-prof, not by google's business, and they're trying to pour funding into organizations who will push the tech forward. I don't think this is solely for the purpose of gathering a patent portfolio. This is money for development.

Consumer tracking (3, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503421)

The part I don't understand is how Google plans on tracking how consumers utilize this electricity, so they can in turn display targeted advertising through AdSense and Gmail. Surely I'm missing something.

Dan East

Re:Consumer tracking (1)

galorin (837773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503571)

Not that hard, just become a residential supplier, and give all their customers a gmail address, and a "free" PC running gOS and there ya go.. the energy supply is just the hook to get you using their services.

and they make money how? (1)

boxless (35756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503447)

At first I thought it was part of some charitable work. and maybe it is. But, the press release was issued by Google Inc.

When does it end?

I don't care if they own their own 767. You can't just hire a few people and get into all these different markets (e.g. cell phones).

Re:and they make money how? (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503555)

What I understood is that they planned to fund some research teams and, if some are succesful, bring in the capital and get back their share when the resulting products are being mass produced.

Re:and they make money how? (1)

cfc-12 (1195347) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503577)

Perhaps this is an attempt to alleviate their guilt over owning their own 767...?

Back to the Future (1985) (1)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503459)

1.21 JIGOWATTS!!!

more&more scriptdead theatre/hiv in DC (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503471)

possibly unrelated, but both fatal to US in their owned way.

the lights are coming up all over now. see you there?

goo-goo is seeing a lot of green no DOWt.

I wish that they would hit geo-thermal (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503501)

There are plenty of players in the solar and wind space. OTH, if they pursue geo-thermal energy, USA could have 200-400 GW of energy within a short time (1-2 decades).

In addition, it would be good if could push geo-thermal heating/cooling of business/residential. Right now, HVAC accounts for more than 50% of a places utility bill (and back east, it can account for 75%). In fact, the recent action of placing a data center in a coal mine is the right idea.

By spending just a bit of money on these 2 items, they could make a bigger impact on energy than Kyoto (or Australia/Americas action) has in 6 years.

Re:I wish that they would hit geo-thermal (1)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503703)

Transmission losses is another target. A lot of electricity is lost on the grid due to the efficiency of conductors. The invention and procution a super-conducting transmission system would allow us to recover that lost energy.

Re:I wish that they would hit geo-thermal (1)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504013)

Mod parent up.

Solar power, and it's derivitave forms (wind and hydroelectric), have limitations based on geography, climate and land use (solar panels on crop land = bad). Geothermal has the one advantage that it's technically feasable anywhere, provided you can dig deep enough.

All that's needed is for industry to re-direct its resouces from drilling for oil, to drilling for hot rocks. While I'm sure its not as simple as all that, its still nice to know that we don't necessarily have to invent anything wildly new to pull this off.

Like the parent mentions, passive heating/cooling is another smart way to go. Any hole/cave that's deep enough will maintain a steady temperature (the average for the region) year-round, all by itself.

It's just a matter of time (1, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503509)

It's just a matter of time until the cost of coal rises to a higher level than the cost of renewables, google could just sit back and watch if they wanted to and their goal would still be met.

Just one gigawatt? (3, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503559)

I would've thought it was easy to produce one gigawatt of renewable power cheaper than coal. Just subsidise, subsidise, subsidise, and sell on the equipment when you're done. Easy. Okay, maybe it doesn't scale too well...

You're confusing energy and power. (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503669)

Gigawatts measure power, not energy. Power = energy / time. When you sell the equipment, power = 0 W.

Re:You're confusing energy and power. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503695)

D'oh! Mod grandparent "uncaffienated".

It's REC not RCC (1)

sherriw (794536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503561)

REC is what it's called. Not RCC. Come on, even I'm noticing an unusually high number of editing mistakes in the /. summaries lately. Usually I just don't care- but let's strive for accuracy shall we? If /. isn't anal about this kind of thing... who else would be?

RE<C (1)

sherriw (794536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503587)

Lost my angle bracket. Let's try html.... RE<C

What happened to the Polywell? (1)

locster (1140121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503597)

What happened to Dr Bussard's Polywell?

Should Google Go Nuclear? [slashdot.org]
Dr Bussard's Google Tech Talk on the subject. [google.com]

I seem to recall Dr Bussard reckoned $200m would put the matter to bed as to whether this form of nuclear fusion reactor would work. That's a tiny fraction of the ITER budget.

How about energy storage? (3, Insightful)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503599)

Wind might always blow at very high altitudes - but solar works only during the day. So, you either have storage, you ramp coal power plants up and down from day to night, or black out the customers

Re:How about energy storage? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21503793)

Did it ever occur to you that the world is *round*? As in, when it's dark in the US, the sun is actually shining elsewhere. Amazingly, the same goes for winter/summer.

Re:How about energy storage? (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503953)

Amazingly, you can't easily move electricity from USA to Europe, or from Australia to Africa. Until huge (and I mean HUGE) electricity transport lines are laid out, and huge transformation stations are up and working, you can't transmit electricity.
      For low scale energy consumption, using local storage is probably cheaper

Re:How about energy storage? (1)

hacker (14635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503967)

Wind might always blow at very high altitudes - but solar works only during the day.

Incorrect. Commercially-available solar panels are only able to capture one spectrum of the light available, however... there are panels which can capture five levels of the light spectrum, at much greater efficiency than the presently available panels.

This means you can capture power at night (infrared), from ambient light (streetlamps), reflected light and so on.

These newer panels are obviously much more expensive than regular panels, but the technology is evolving to lower that cost.

We're walk around all day, every day, while free money is raining down on us, and hardly anybody is collecting it. It's time someone made that obvious to people and started making it possible to do it at lower cost than before.

Re:How about energy storage? (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21504081)

"This means you can capture power at night from ambient light (streetlamps)"

      Solar powered flashlight?
Using a 1 square meter solar panel, you could get at most 0.4W from the light of one 1000W lightbulb at 25 meters away.

So far all I see.. (1)

s31523 (926314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503623)

Is jokes and a little bashing on Google. Well, I say good for Google. Finally a major company is taking serious interest in dealing with the addiction that the human race has for fossil fuel energy. With all the money people in the Google regime have I think it is great. If more companies took a stand we might get off our addiction or at least lessen it a bit.

Re:So far all I see.. (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503827)

What? No bashing on Google for investing into technologies that will benefit itself in the long term?

(waits for the hippies to show up and say "Well, they have *so much money*, it wouldn't hurt to spend it on the homeless")

More power too them (2)

Atrophis (103390) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503635)

I hope they can do it.

Best of all, it is a private company doing it. Not backed by government, maybe they will lead they way. Just as how true capitalism should work.

Re:More power too them (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503943)

Just as how true capitalism should work.
That would be the first instance i have EVER seen.
a true free-market needs Perfect and complete information to all actors - this is impossible in practice.

Branko Horvat: "it is now well known that capitalist development leads to the concentration of capital, employment and power. It is somewhat less known that it leads to the almost complete destruction of economic freedom."

OMG! They are going to print clickable ads on coal (2, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503733)

Or the wind turbines will be tuned to emit a low frequency sound plugging products, "uuusssee bbbbeeeesssstttt bbbbiiiirrrrdddd sssseeeedddddssss".

The solar cells will reflect light and write "www.sanmarcos.island.com" on the clouds.

If a slashhack can think of these, imagine what ubergooglegeek can think of!!!

just because it's "renewable" and "cheaper" (1, Flamebait)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503769)

doesn't make it "green".

Of course, like a bunch of morons, CO2 emissions are all we're measuring for "green-ness", so despite the amount of poisons dumped into the sea to create solar cells, or any other toxic byproduct, we'll still pat ourselves on the back for being so "green".

And then we can pony up 86 billion dollars the UN wants to help the rest of the world "cope" with the 0.3 degree change in temperature over the last 50 years. (Or the -2.3 degree change over the last 200 - thats right sport, the world is cooler).

Funny things, these millions (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21503833)

It's thought-inflation: people from Google mentioning millions sort of wears out on me, by now. I mean, if someone /else/ were to say: we're going to invest hundreds of millions in renewable energy, I would think: wow ! That kind of money can buy you a lot of research and development. But when Google says it, I think: yeah yeah, that's just going to cover the cost of coffee machine. Does anyone else experience this ?
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