Google Sets Goal of Making Renewables Cheaper Than Coal

Google recently announced a new strategic initiative to develop
electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than
electricity produced from coal. The newly created initiative, known
as REC, will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power,
wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other
potential breakthrough technologies. RE<C is hiring engineers
and energy experts to lead its research and development work, which
will begin with a significant effort on solar thermal technology,
and will also investigate enhanced geothermal systems and other
areas. In 2008, Google expects to spend tens of millions on research
and development and related investments in renewable energy. As part
of its capital planning process, the company also anticipates
investing 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.”

Page added, “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. 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.”

Page continued, “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.” (One gigawatt can 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.”

Coal is the primary power source for many around the world,
supplying 40% of the world’s electricity. The greenhouse gases it
produces are one of our greatest environmental challenges. Making
electricity produced from renewable energy cheaper than coal would
be a key part of reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“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,” added Sergey Brin, Google Co-
founder and President of Technology.

Strategic Investments and Grants

“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.”

Working with RE<C, will make strategic investments and
grants that demonstrate a path toward producing energy at an
unsubsidized cost below that of coal-fired power plants. Google will
work with a variety of organizations in the renewable energy field,
including companies, R&D laboratories, and universities. For
example, is working with two companies that have
promising scalable energy technologies:

  • eSolar Inc., a Pasadena, CA-based company specializing in solar
    thermal power which replaces the fuel in a traditional power plant
    with heat produced from solar energy. eSolar’s technology has great
    potential to produce utility-scale power cheaper than coal. For more
    information, please visit
  • Makani Power Inc., an Alameda, CA-based company developing high-
    altitude wind energy extraction technologies aimed at harnessing the
    most powerful wind resources. High-altitude wind energy has the
    potential to satisfy a significant portion of current global
    electricity needs. For more information on Makani Power, please
Ongoing Commitments

The recent announcement represents just the latest steps in Google’s
commitment to a clean and green energy future.

Google has been working hard on energy efficiency and making its
business environmentally sustainable. Last spring the company
announced its intention to be carbon neutral for 2007, and is on
track to meet that goal. To this end, the company has taken concrete
steps to reduce its carbon footprint and accelerate improvements in
green technology, including:

  • Developing cutting-edge energy efficiency technology to power
    and cool its data centers in the U.S. and around the world.
    Generating electricity for its Mountain View campus from a 1.6 
    Megawatt corporate solar panel installation, one of the largest in
    the U.S.
  • Accelerating development and adoption of plug-in vehicles
    through the RechargeIT initiative, including a $10 million request
    for investment proposals (
  • Joining with other industry leaders in 2007 to form the Climate
    Savers Computing Initiative, a consortium that advocates the design
    and use of more energy-efficient computers and servers
  • Working on policies that encourage renewable energy development
    and deployment, such as a U.S. Renewable Energy Standard, through

For more information on Google’s commitment to a clean energy
future, see

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.