Google drops a dime or two (or a billion) on solar
Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on November 29, 2007
From the Guardian:
The web portal Google aims to develop cheap and clean sources of energy to replace polluting fossil fuels and tackle global warming…The company’s clean technology initiative, called REC, aims to develop renewable energy sources that are cheaper than coal, the cheapest, most abundant and dirtiest fossil fuel.
This initiative was slightly disparaged by one of the discussants at yesterday’s RFF U.S. Climate Policy rollout because it seems unlikely to attain its goal of making solar power cost-competitive with coal. I agree that this is a pipe dream for the near future, but essentially carbon-free energy sources such as solar must be aggressively pursued to successfully create a suite of clean energy. Clearly Google is setting a tanglible, discrete goal (cost of solar ≤ cost of coal). They aren’t necessarily expecting to achieve this goal, but if they feel like investing hundreds of millions of dollars to edge us toward cheap renewable energy, I think that’s great. It would be encouraging if more concentrated sources of capital undertook major green initiatives instead of simply greenwashing. At any rate, isn’t this a great situation for everyone? We basically have a private enterprise willing to accept potentially massive technology spillovers due to their organization’s preference for monumental green investment. This is the kind of R&D for which the federal government normally has to accept responsibility, and if private enterprise wants to absorb the costs for society, I’m totally willing to live with that.