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Google aims to make renewable energy sources cheaper than coal

Google aims to make renewable energy sources cheaper than coal

Google aims to make renewable energy cheaper than coal
November 28, 2007

Tuesday Google announced an initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal.

The initiative, dubbed RE<C, will initially focus on solar, wind, and geothermal power. Google said it expects to “spend tens of millions on research and development and related investments in renewable energy” and invest “hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns.”

“We have gained expertise in designing and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities by building efficient data centers,” said Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products. “We want to apply the same creativity and innovation to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at globally significant scale, and produce it cheaper than from coal.”

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“There has been tremendous work already on renewable energy. Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal,” Page continued. “Solar thermal technology, for example, provides a very plausible path to providing renewable energy cheaper than coal. We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green. We are aware of several promising technologies, and believe there are many more out there.”

Google says it hopes to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal “within years”. One gigawatt is enough to power a city the size of San Francisco.

“If we meet this goal,” said Page, “and large-scale renewable deployments are cheaper than coal, the world will have the option to meet a substantial portion of electricity needs from renewable sources and significantly reduce carbon emissions. We expect this would be a good business for us as well.”

Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder and President of Technology, adds that affordable renewable energy could bring benefits in poor countries.

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“Cheap renewable energy is not only critical for the environment but also vital for economic development in many places where there is limited affordable energy of any kind,” he said.

“Lots of groups are doing great work trying to produce inexpensive renewable energy. We want to add something that moves these efforts toward even cheaper technologies a bit more quickly. Usual investment criteria may not deliver the super low-cost, clean, renewable energy soon enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Dr. Larry Brilliant, Executive Director of, Google’s philanthropic arm, “’s hope is that by funding research on promising technologies, investing in promising new companies, and doing a lot of R&D ourselves, we may help spark a green electricity revolution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than coal.”

Google said it will “make strategic investments and grants that demonstrate a path toward producing energy at an unsubsidized cost below that of coal-fired power plants.”

The unveiling of the renewable energy initiative follows Google’s announcement last spring that it plans to be carbon neutral for 2007. The search giant has also put $10 million towards the development of plug-in vehicles through the RechargeIT initiative and co-founded the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a industry push towards more energy-efficient computers and servers.

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