Don't be Evil, be Green: Google's Cleantech Movement

October 10 2008 / by jvarden
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 9 Hot

By Jenna Varden

“It’s just a math problem.” – Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Google is thinking big, again! The company that was founded to ‘organize all the world’s information’ is now focusing its attention on energy. Google’s Cleantech Movement plans to “eliminate all utility fossil fuel dependence and 50 percent of automobile fossil fuel dependence by 2030.”
So far, the company has already invested $45M in wind, solar, and geothermal energy, with tidal and wave power as next in line. This will not only save consumers and America money, one of Google’s motivations, it will also protect the Earth’s environment, reason number two, which is “all part of not being evil (Source: Stefanie Olsen/CNET). In other words, not only is funding alternative energy helpful for its monetary benefits, it helps the environment and gives Google a positive image in the public eye. It will also benefit Google’s energy guzzling servers, whose life-force is the precious commodity of electricity, thus saving the company money.

Schmidt believes that better energy efficiency will lead to more savings. And moving from fossil fuels to renewable, alternative energies will also cost less in the long-term. As an example, while it may indeed cost a hefty amount to make the switch, once in place, the ‘U.S. would save 97% of $2.17 trillion in energy spending over the next 22 years.’ Google’s renovation of its own buildings to cut carbon emissions, installed solar and power monitoring equipment, and is already saving money each year. Restructuring the U.S. power grid, currently with a 9 percent efficiency loss, could also make the country’s energy more efficient and thus, save more money.

Are Computer Servers 21st century ‘energy guzzlers’?

While Google should be lauded for its progressive view on energy efficiency, it also has an intrinsic self-interest in cheap electricity. Google’s new server farm to be built on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon, called The Dalles data center, will need an estimated 103 megawatts of electricity to run, ‘enough to power 82,000 homes, or a city the size of Tacoma, Washington – via Roughtype

While The Dalles center will not be up and running until 2011, Google’s multitude of other server farms also require large amounts of electricity. Cheaper electricity will allow Google to save money powering their farms, as well as allow further expansion.

What is behind Google’s real motivations? Not being Evil, or Green is Good

Environmental degradation is another worry that Google faces, one that they try to lessen through the Climate Avers Computing Initiative. Working with AMD and Intel, among other companies, they attempt to halve computer power requirements by 2010, the equivalent of taking 11 million cars off the road in terms of carbon emission cuts.” Google also is reportedly lobbying for stricter building codes, a commitment to wind and solar tax credits, and a carbon tax

Google’s heavy investment in alternate energy bathes the company in a positive limelight, especially in a time where the economy is doing poorly, gas prices are high, and people are thinking about what can be changed in the country. Since there are duel benefits of the Cleantech Movement, monetary and environmental savings, Google can gain support from multiple groups of people.

Image: Google, Inc. Earthday 2007

Related article on Google venture investments from Earth2Tech

What do you think Google's real motivations are behind it's clean tech push?

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Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. I think Google has motivation coming from all over the place on this one. Minimizing server electricity and cooling costs, the dovetailing of the green-movement with their mission and the macro international clean-tech investment focus are huge drivers. Spiraling commodity costs (oil in particular) continue to reverberate through the organization and focus of the world’s economy. Though it’s possible that extreme innovation could result from a Manhattan style project, the intimate structure of the global economy, as evidenced by the current meltdown, and the birth of a new order of collaborative processes are driving a revolution in the way economics plays out and clean tech is currently receiving much of this attention allocation.

    Posted by: Jeff Hilford   October 12, 2008
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  2. I’ve always been weary about the motivations of all big businesses and Google is definitely no exception. Sure their whole motto is not be evil, but with the green movement being at an all time high right now, you can’t help but wonder.

    Posted by: christinep   October 13, 2008
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  3. Thanks for your input, Jeff and christinep.

    Posted by: jvarden   October 20, 2008
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