Google Gives Thumbs Down to the Sun…

Fact, fiction, future or just plain folly?

In the past the venerable search engine giant Google has been known to put its money where  its mouth was with a significant financial commitment to efficiency and renewable energy.  Here in what was referred to  as it’s  “RE < C” initiative it invested in  various forms of wind power projects and US’s geothermal resources.  Yet with an itch to be a self innovator, it took part of the RE < C work in house as a Google initiative.  Yet it seems that as they cut back, wait the giant Google now cutting back?  Yes it seems reality has set in and they can’t operate on love after all and hey Microsoft makes more off Android then they do.  However as part of its claimed general cutbacks, the company has announced that all internal renewable energy work will stop.  Now in fairness it also did point out that outside investments will continue yet didn’t state at what levels.

As while Google’s intent in this arena  were probably well thought out when  they launched the program, it appears they might have ended up betting on the wrong technology in what some consider a fast moving and dynamic  market if you will. As their biggest bet was that concentrated solar power (do you recall the movie Sahara) would end up being the top dog in the renewable energy arena, and therefore it should be a key focus area for investment.

To build upon this concept they took to working on heliostats which allow mirrors to track the sun, along with the development of a solar-driven hot air turbine engine. In short neither of these tracks saw much sun light (pun intended) .  It also appears as if a number of renewable energy companies had already achieved a reasonable level of success of extracting savings as Google was quoted as saying “Our cost analysis projected that our heliostat field would be only modestly less expensive than previous approaches,” Google concluded.

In addition it appears that the entire renewably energy field seems has moved beyond the need for a solar driven turbine engine too. As photovoltaic systems have now dropped considerably in price at a clip faster than most had figured would happen, thus making their economics far more attractive over concentrated solar.  With this said , Google is sensing the light is dimming on concentrated solar with a quick shift toward technologies which can continue releasing electricity well after the sun has set, which are based upon designs which incorporate converting electricity into heat for storage in molten salt.

Yet my point here is not so much to pick on Google as I like them in a way, however as with all iconoclastic companies, reality one day does set in and here it seems two fold.  The first being cut backs and assuredly the second and just speculation on my part is at least business casual dress (save for Fridays).  Yet second and more importantly this non-sense about renewable energy being a savor both economically and environmentally as neither sorry to say is a reality.

Keep in mind that the laws of physics clearly state there isn’t a free lunch or perpetual motion would be a reality so what makes people think that all this renewable nonsense is anything but?  Now don’t get me wrong, there are concepts in the renewable field (such as photovoltaic) which make sense because their application is of value and the economy of the idea isn’t based solely upon “concept” as in the Google example.  So as Anne was fond of saying “The Sun will come up tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar”…

About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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