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Sierra Daily

Jun 16, 2011

Agog Over Google

Tuesday’s news that Google is investing $280 million in solar-power-system company SolarCity to help homeowners put solar panels on their rooftops has garnered plenty of press. According to AP, Google's change “is expected to pay for 10,000 rooftop systems that will be installed over the next 18 months.”

The rooftop deal is the latest installment of the search engine giant’s plan to help develop renewable energy that is cheaper than electricity from coal-fired power plants, outlined by Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page in 2007. Google’s earlier solar investments include $168 million for a solar thermal power plant in California’s Mojave Desert and $5 million for a solar photovoltaic plant near Berlin. The company’s wind investments include $100 million in Oregon, $55 million in California’s Tehachapi Pass, and $38.8 in North Dakota.

An internet company has a gargantuan energy appetite, so it’s easy -- necessary, perhaps -- to be skeptical of even the most impressive deeds. According to the Montreal Gazette, “If the Internet was a country, it would be the planet’s fifth-biggest consumer of power, ahead of India and Germany. The Internet’s power needs now rival those of the aviation industry and are expected to nearly double by 2020.” In 2009, Google debated the energy requirements of individual online searches, while a  recent Greenpeace analysis of the energy demands of corporate data centers netted the company a C for its “infrastructure siting,” a B for its “mitigation strategy, and a scorching F for its "transparency."

Want to learn more? Google it.

--Reed McManus

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