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Google Pulls the Plug on Its Green Energy Program

by Leslie Guevarra, November 23, 2011

Solar panel installation at Google's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters is seen in the 2007 file photo. Google began making investments in 2007 to drive down the price of renewable energy in 2007, with a particular focus on solar power. But this past week, the company pulled the plug on those initiatives. Google has decided to power down its 4-year-old RE The tech giant included the news about its decision at the very foot of a blog on Tuesday -- archly titled "More spring cleaning out of season" -- that listed shutdowns of "a number of products which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for."

"This initiative was developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE Bill Weihl, Google's energy czar, also is gone, according to Reuters. The leader of the RE Google has made hefty investments to advance solar power technology, in geothermal technology and research, as the company noted on an updated RE In addition, we've reached a point in our engineering projects where we're facing new challenges related to our solar receiver design. Then, reprising Holzle's post, the RE Google has been edging away from its bold energy initiative since summer when it announced that it would end its PowerMeter home energy management program by mid-September. Microsoft made a similar decision about the same time, then Cisco said it would withdraw from building and home energy management markets.

Despite the retreat from RE Paul Baier, vice president of sustainability consulting at Groom Energy and a senior contributor at, called Google's decision refreshing.

"Financial justification for large scale, energy producing, renewable projects is challenging, even for cash rich companies like Google," Baier said. "Google will continue to make a material difference for the environment by focusing on greening its energy purchases (buying but not generating renewable energy), facilities (requiring energy efficient buildings), and data centers (requiring energy efficient servers). These activities are more achievable, fiscally responsible, and help drive demand. Leave the large scale renewable generation projects to the utilities and the government."

"It's refreshing to see companies like Google use the same financial thresholds for renewable projects that are used with other corporate investments," he said in an email exchange this morning. "Long-term environmental sustainability will only occur if the underlying projects are supported by reasonable financial returns."

Leslie Guevarra
Google Pulls the Plug on Its Green Energy Program, November 23, 2011

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