eSolar Inc.'s solar panels in action. eSolar Inc. is one of two companies currently receiving investments from Google's RE less than C initiative.  (Source: eSolar Inc.)

Makani Power Inc. is also receiving Google Funding. Makani seeks to harness a novel but potent form of power -- high altitude winds.  (Source: Makani Power Inc.)
Tech giant Google is putting its money where its mouth is, when it comes to energy change

Despite rampant commercial success, having a stock price of over 700 dollars, the wildly successful top internet search engine, possibly the top free email service, a new cell phone OS, and a constant stream of new services that equate to internet market domination, Google has never seemed quite as evil as some big companies.  The company has always preached a strongly altruistic philosophy.  Its goal is to "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" and its often used slogan is "Don't be evil".

Now Google is looking to not just avoid being evil, but possibly do something really helpful for mankind.  Google has launched an initiative called RE<C, which stands for Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal.  The plan looks to eliminate worldwide reliance on dwindling fossil fuel supplies by developing renewable resource technologies to the point where they are cheaper than traditional fossil fuel power.

Google is looking to give consumers and businesses a good reason to ditch oil and coal for renewable energy.

Google has a personal interest in energy as its data centers use a lot of it and millions of users spend countless watts of computer power, finding sites via Google's search engine.

Its initial investment efforts will be in advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, and enhanced geothermal systems.  Google notes, though, that it will also actively pursue any other breakthrough sources of renewable energy.

Google has not disclosed exactly how much it will invest into the new venture, but it has announced its first project -- to build 1 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity (enough power to power San Francisco) -- is cheaper than the generation costs from coal.  Google is looking to hire top engineers and researchers to aid in this project.  Much of the funding for the initiative will go to this Google driven project.

Additional funding for the initiative will be channeled in the form of strategic grants and investments into organizations and individuals who are developing cheap renewable power.   Companies, R&D laboratories, and universities all have a shot at the money.

So far Google has targeted two firms.  The first is eSolar Inc. (PDF) who specializes in solar-thermal power.  This company is highly regarded by Google as breaking new ground in providing utility scale, cheap solar power. 

The second sponsored company is Makani Power Inc. (PDF).  This company has the (literally) lofty goal of collecting high altitude wind energy.  According to the company, if only a fraction of this energy, high altitude air streams driven by solar radiation, could be captured it would easily provide for all the worlds current power needs.

Google is joining the push for carbon neutrality, which aside from lower carbon emissions, also lowers a broad array of other industrial pollution by lowering energy consumption.

Google has stated that it is extremely committed to a green vision of the future.

These moves follow other do-good projects from Google, seeking to advance mankind, including a trans-Pacific cable-line and a 30m USD moon challenge.  This initiative is by far Google's largest and most ambitious project of this kind, though.  It should be interesting to see how the power of this giant can affect the energy industry.  Google is not the only brainy organization looking to help solve energy woes, though -- The University of Oxford just released a significant plan on how to both cut energy usage and save money.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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