Posts tagged “Google”
Back in 2007, Google assembled a team of engineers to investigate the feasibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. The effort ended in 2011 with the conclusion that it can’t be done with existing technology. Two of the engineers on that team wrote about their efforts in Spectrum IEEE.org. Some excerpts from that article:
Google’s boldest energy move was an effort known as RE<C [Renewables less than Coal], which aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants do. The company announced that Google would help promising technologies mature by investing in start-ups and conducting its own internal R&D.
At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.
As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions. Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.
So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.
We’re glad that Google tried something ambitious with the RE<C initiative, and we’re proud to have been part of the project. But with 20/20 hindsight, we see that it didn’t go far enough, and that truly disruptive technologies are what our planet needs. To reverse climate change, our society requires something beyond today’s renewable energy technologies. Fortunately, new discoveries are changing the way we think about physics, nanotechnology, and biology all the time. While humanity is currently on a trajectory to severe climate change, this disaster can be averted if researchers aim for goals that seem nearly impossible.
The key is that as yet invented sources have to be cheaper than fossil fuels. The problem is that existing scalable low carbon energy sources (nuclear and renewables) are all more expensive than fossil fuels, which I’ve been pointing out for years. They make a stab at explaining why wind and solar are more expensive but trust me, their explanation will largely fall on deaf ears when presented to renewable energy enthusiasts who either don’t want to hear it or are incapable of comprehending it. They argue that subsidies for renewables and nuclear to compete with fossil fuels are essentially a financial penalty to fossil fuels which simply shift their use to another part of the planet (export of oil, gas, and coal, along with manufacturing jobs).
While I don’t normally put up a post on Saturday, the queue is piling up a bit so I decided to squeeze this one in before Monday’s post. The following guest essay is by Dan Auld. Dan is a San Diego businessman and writer whose work has appeared in hundreds of places and who has won several awards from San Diego press associations. —————————– Un-Analytics: How Google Went Solar September 8, 2011 Google loves talking about the world before analytics — when web owners knew almost nothing about their sites. Nothing useful, anyway. That all changed when a new technology came along that allowed web owners to monitor their sites as much as they wanted. Any time they wanted. Web… Continue»
A recruiter from Google recently contacted me and asked if I would put a note on here that they are looking for candidates for their Renewable Energy Group. You may recall that I previously wrote a post covering several companies – Green Job Opportunities. This one is specifically for Google. Below is their call for qualified people to take up the challenge of supplying clean energy to the world. ————————- Environmental sustainability in the face of global climate change is a high priority for Google because, as our business grows, so does our demand for energy. We’ve worked hard to increase our efficiency and become carbon-neutral, but when it comes to buying clean and affordable electricity we still have limited… Continue»
Fortune has a very interesting interview with Google co-founder Larry Page. He hits on a lot of topics that are frequently discussed here, and some that aren’t often discussed, but that I have spent a lot of time thinking about (e.g., geothermal). Here is a link to the interview: Larry Page on how to change the world And some energy-specific excerpts: Do you have other examples where innovative leadership could move the needle? I think there are a lot of areas. You can be a bit of a detective and ask, What are the industries where things haven’t changed much in 50 years? We’ve been looking a little at geothermal power. And you start thinking about it, and you say,… Continue»
Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to “make a difference” by making a significant contribution to society. I have a soft spot for families and especially for kids, and I really wanted to contribute toward the quality of life for those groups. A big concern is that quality of life for a large segment of the world’s population, never good to begin with, is poised for further deterioration as fossil fuel supplies deplete. Quality of life to me starts with the basics: People have enough food and clean water, they have shelter, they live and work in safe conditions, and they have adequate access to affordable energy. At various stages of my life I have had involvement… Continue»
These guys just seem like they are really trying hard to do the right thing: Google’s Goal: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal Mountain View, Calif. (November 27, 2007) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today 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 RE-C, 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… Continue»