Google may announce new features and applications for its suite of Web tools seemingly every day, but on Tuesday the company began a foray into the new territory of alternative energy. As part of a project dubbed RE<C, Google will attempt to develop alternative ways to produce electricity, with the goal of finding one cheaper than coal.
Google will focus on improving existing technologies, such as solar, wind, and geothermal systems. The company’s work will be cutting costs to make them cost-competitive, not just green. Since 40 percent of the world’s electricity is produced by coal, it has become the old dirty standby that Google hopes to antiquate.
“We have gained expertise in designing and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities by building efficient data centers,” said Larry Page, Google co-founder. “We want to apply the same creativity and innovation to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at globally significant scale, and produce it cheaper than from coal.”
To get the job done, Google will rely on its money. It will spend tens of millions on research and development in 2008, hiring engineers and experts to work on its research and development team, and also investing in other companies working toward the same end. “With talented technologists, great partners and significant investments, we hope to rapidly push forward,” Page said. “Our goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. We are optimistic this can be done in years, not decades.”
In the past, Google has worked on a number of other green projects, including its energy-efficient data centers, solar-powered Mountain View campus, and RechargeIT, a project to develop plug-in vehicles.