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Search Engine Giant Google Wins Green Leap Award
This is a new feature we’ve added in order to highlight organizations and companies who have made noteworthy contributions to developing a clean energy policy based on renewable power. We recently profiled Cal Green Lending, Real Goods, and Nanosolar, and these companies are retroactively awarded this distinction as well.
Today we’d like to salute…well…a giant media corporation. Not just any multibillion-dollar press magnet, either; Google is the most active web entity on Earth, attracting over 80 million visitors daily to its search result pages and other web services.
“To Google” has become an infinitive transitive verb meaning, “to instantly research any topic.” According to our site statistics, there is a 75% chance you arrived here via Google referral.
Google exercises god-like power over the Internet, defining the user experience and revolutionizing the core concept of advertising with the Google Adsense program, which enables millions of independent content creators to easily place ads on their site.
The start-up in San Jose has gone on to become one of the wealthiest corporations on Earth, and many online talking heads (and the courts) regularly debate the dangers of concentrating so much power in a single company. What is not debatable is that Google is one of the most active corporate voices on behalf of alternative energy.
Google has been putting these considerable funds where its press releases are, adding the world’s largest solar array to the Mountain View facility, and we’ve reported previous;y on the investment founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have made in the ultra-thin printed solar modules from Nanosolar.
The latest news is the best yet: the “.org” side of the loudest voice in technological development has issued a bold plan to “Green the Grid” and shift the majority of energy production away from fossil fuels by 2030. Drafted by Jeffrey Greenblatt, who is the Climate and Energy Technology Manager for Google, the analysis recommends an investment of $4.4 trillion in a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal power. The program calls for 88% of grid electrcity to be produced from earth-friendlier technology by the target date.
We’d like to quibble a bit with the low goals for the vehicle fuel aspect of this plan…a piddling 38% percent reduction of petroleum in 20 years. The plan focuses on using electricity for transportation , which is nice, but will require a completely new infrastructure of charging stations and new vehicle factories,
Greenblatt also oddly presumes that electrical power will be cheap and abundant, which seems unrealistic, considering the effort which will be needed to accommodate existing and inflating demand for household and commercial electricity. We’d be robbing the lights to pay the tank.
At Holy Solar, we’d like to see 80% or more of a reduction in petroleum fuel by 2030, which can not be accomplished with electric cars alone. We were not able to find a single reference to the role of biofuels. Also, the notion of offering rebates to “retire older cars early,” is wasteful of the existing vehicles and the energy that went into building them.
It also ignores the millions of poor who have never owned a new car and probably never will. This was clearly a plan drawn up by someone with a well-paying career, but the fact is that this comes at a time when auto manufacturers are struggling to sell new vehicles at all.
So, as you stride up to the podium to collect your award, Dear Google, please do take a moment to think bigger about the potential of biofuels to achieve for vehicles what solar, wind and geothermal power do for electricity…allow a gradual shift while salvaging the existing infrastructure. Let’s not throw millions of vehicles to the scrap heap when a simple modification can make them burn more cleanly.
Nevertheless, this plan is admittedly a first draft; what we’d like to salute is the way this media giant is pioneering the dialogue about going beyond the inconvenient truth to investing in the technology to make this the time for a Green Revolution. Therefore, Google is hereby named winner of this week’s “Green Leap Award.”
Enough sunlight falls on the Earth in two hours to support all of civilization’s power needs for an entire year. This compelling statistic ought to have mobs unplugging from the grid and off to the solar store for some PV modules and wires. When we see how energy is free, that it literally falls from the sky and all we have to do is collect it, why should we live under the whim of a heartless energy monopoly, in dread of their threatening pink notices?
At some level, however, we all know that unless the grid itself is powered by renewable energy, the economic, social, and environmental plague of fossil fuels and nuclear power will go on to pollute the world regardless of how tiny our individual footprints may be.
So the best news, lately, has been about the solar we can’t have: industrial-strength adaptations for large-scale solar power that are beginning to answer some of the shortcomings of our favorite energy source. Traditional mono-and-polycrystalline panels are a technological wonder, but mass-producing them presents some economic and environmental problems of their own. Many people worry about the long “energy debt” these panels have, often three to five years before the energy to manufacture such panels is recovered.
The focus in solar equipment manufacture has shifted from the watt to the megawatt, and the entire premise of solar collection is rapidly evolving. Since solar panels obviously need to cover the maximum surface area, engineers have been hard at work on that third dimension, reducing the thickness of each module.
They haven’t stopped there. A company called Nanosolar is now producing solar cells so thin that they are literally painted on, collecting charge by means of a special ink. Want some? You can’t have any; despite enormous investments from giants like IBM and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as reports that the company’s new plants have the ability to produce 1 billion watts to wholesale at about $1 a piece, Nanosolar says it is sold out for at least a year in advance. Try again in 2009.
Boasting an impressive 14.5% efficiency and the lowest cost yet for photovoltaic cells, we can’t wait until this technology makes it to the consumer level. Unfortunately, since the technology is patented and proprietary, and Nanosolar shows no interest in the residential sector, it will be some time before microsolar makes its way to the open market.
Nanosolar has been awarded the Green Leap Award from Holy Solar for innovative advancement in the approach to alternative energy.
Until then, we’ll have to get by with the next-best thing, solar cells which are merely thin, available from Global Solar and UniSolar. See these thin-film solar cells available from Real Goods.
Nanosolar Thin Film Production-100 ft per minute Solar Printing Capacity