Google has quietly announced that it is to ‘retire’ its initiative to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, which it launched in 2007.
The ‘Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal’ or RE<C effort to drive down the costs of renewable energy made several investments in companies working on potentially ‘breakthrough’ technologies, including solar developers Brightsource Energy and eSolar and geothermal drilling specialist Potter Drilling.
Google.org invested $168 million in Brightsource’s 392 MW Ivanpah solar tower project in California, which will be completed in 2013.
The company has directed its support towards efforts aimed at reducing the costs associated with heliostats, the mirrors that are used to follow and focus the sun’s rays in concentrating solar power plants, and reducing the water consumption in this type of plant.
The internet giant also sponsored research that created the first geothermal map of the US, highlighting the most promising regions for geothermal energy.
But while Google says it is proud of its efforts on power tower technology, which has has come a long way in recent years, the costs of competing solar photovoltaic technology has declined so rapidly over recent years that it is now a real option for consumers.
“We’ve reached a point in our engineering projects where we’re facing new challenges related to our solar receiver design,” the company says in a blog. “At this point, other institutions seem better positioned than Google to take this work to the next level.”
Google says it will be publishing its key finding to share with the solar community. Meanwhile, it says that it will continue to support renewables through investment, which has reached more than $850 million, and developments at its HQ and data centres.
Earlier this summer, Google pulled the plug on its energy management project and most recently announced a joint venture with Clean Power Finance to support residential solar projects.
For further information:
Google and Clean Power Finance create $75 million fund for home solar projects (28-Sept)
Google pulls plug on PowerMeter after poor take up (29-Jun)
Google joins backers of BrightSource Energy’s solar thermal Ivanpah project (12-Apr)
24 November 2011