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Google Bets US$38.8M On Wind, Solar & Geothermal Clean Tech

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Google said it has invested in three companies as part of its plan to push for renewable energy, including a 38.8 mln usd injection in two wind farms in the North Dakota plains.

This signals that Google is targeting the utilities industry and may ultimately be embedded in your future home.

The two wind farms are powered by clean electricity producer NextEra Energy Resources. According to the company's website, "over 90% of electricity generation technology stems from clean or renewable sources, including wind, solar, nuclear, gas and hydro."

Google wind farm.JPG

In a post on Google's official blog, the search engine said it made the investment in a move to "reduce the use of fossil fuels" and also as part of an overall plan to support renewable energy. The two wind mills can produce 169.5 megawatts, enough energy for over 55,000 homes, it said.

The second company to benefit from Google's renewable energy push is eSolar.
eSolar designs and develops Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) projects for a total of 3.5 GigaWatts worldwide. It aims to make renewable energy cost-competitive with fossil fuel energy.

Third on the list it AltaRock.

AltaRock focuses on the research and development of Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS). It produces electricity "using heat extracted with engineered fluid-flow paths in hot rocks". A technology the company claims emits almost no CO2, if none at all.

Google did not provide figures for its investments in those early-stage renewable energy companies eSolar and AltaRock, but said it is "pushing for for energy policies that strengthen the innovation pipeline, and ... dedicating resources to developing new technologies."

These investments will enable Google to target huge markets traditionally owned by massive bricks & mortar companies who provide critical utility services. This follows a trend identified by Nicholas Carr, author of 'The Big Switch' and SES conference speaker, who said that the giant web 2.0 companies are likely to become like utility companies.

However Google will not necessarily try and become a utility company, but instead simply try to help utility companies become more like web 2.0 companies. Potential areas for innovation are power 'load management' for utility companies via 'smart grids'. Such systems could benefit from Google fibre, mapping services and global publishing network to provide intelligence into power load management. Renewable sources of energy, particularly wind and solar, stand to benefit most as they are non-continuous sources of power. As some areas are windier than others and as sure as day, there is night, so Google can help modulate power demand in cleantech and make it more efficient. Check out this fascinating interview on the subject of Electricity 2.0 with market analyst and expert Tom Raftery (nickname Greenmonk) from analyst company Red Monk.

The two operating arms Google uses to further its involvement in the renewable energy cause are philanthropic Google.org and one-year old venture capital unit Google Ventures, which already counts a diversified portfolio of 10 companies. To find out more on those, read here.

This post was co-authored by Liva Judic & Jonathan Allen


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