Google abandons renewable energy projects

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

This is telling. From this Reuters article, news that Google has decided that seven projects just don’t pencil out as planned, and alternate energy is one that doesn’t. So much for the “cheaper than coal” meme they were pushing. Not only that, the green wizard who planned this all is out the door.

“Google said on Tuesday that it was pulling the plug on seven projects, including Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal…” [...]
“To recap, we’re in the process of shutting down a number of products which haven’t had the impact we’d hoped for…” wrote Google Senior Vice President of Operations Urs Holzle [...]
In 2009, the company’s so-called Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl, told Reuters that he expected to demonstrate within a few years working technology that could produce renewable energy at a cheaper price than coal. [...]
A Google spokesman said that Weihl had left Google earlier this month.

Here’s the Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal page at Google. And here’s a video on one of the plans, looks like pie in the sky when you watch it.

The video description on YouTube says:

Google’s heliostat team re-thought the entire heliostat architecture in order to reduce the cost of concentrating solar thermal power. This led to new approaches and different ways to tackle problems. This video covers the 3 guiding principles of the research, and how the team took a different approach to reducing costs

h/t to Poptech

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49 Responses to Google abandons renewable energy projects

  1. Andrew says:

    Now if they can get rid of those 23 cretins that are trying to skew climategate searches and global warming to suit the AGW meme that would be a big improvement….

  2. Let the awakening commence! New technologies in general do not perform as advertised. This is based on the fact that not all important variables are identified and under control.

  3. Matthew W says:

    I for one am glad that Google was not able to violate the Laws of Nature and Physics (that would be EVIL!!))
    Time to start facing the simple facts Greenies that trying to convert wind, bio mass or solar in to energy is never going to be cheaper then coal.

  4. Bob Moss says:

    Your search – “renewable energy” – did not match any documents.

    Suggestions:

    Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
    Try different keywords.
    Try more general keywords.

  5. old construction worker says:

    Darn, I was hoping Al Gore got kicked off their board.

  6. These folks like big words. Not that it’s a bad thing. But once all of Nevada is covered in heliostats, there won’t be any more room for gamblers, and Lost Wages will still have to turn its lights off at night. Not hard to see why Google noticed the bottom line.

  7. Ralph says:

    .
    Dang…
    They never did solve the key issue of generating thermal energy at night. Now if they could have cracked that, they would have been ok.

    .

  8. Justa Joe says:

    Our pals on the left are still constrained by the universal axiom money talks and BS walks… at least when it comes to THEIR money.

  9. harrywr2 says:

    Profiting off of so called ‘emergent technology’ is quite easy.

    Someone with a reputation for savvy investing invests. The lemmings follow suit and invest driving up the stock price. Then the original investor quietly unloads at the higher price.

    As google is generally recognized as a ‘savvy’ company they could invest in a synthetic doggy doo manufacturer and the stock would rise. If they could get Martha Stewart to say something nice about synthetic doggy doo then they would really make money.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Google manipulates searches for political & advertising purposes, I have observed this myself. They are EVIL. Google is ALL ABOUT MANIPULATION and CONTROL.

  11. View from the Solent says:

    http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/dawn-stover/the-myth-of-renewable-energy
    A critical anaysis of so-called renewables.

    “But meeting the world’s total energy demands in 2030 with renewable energy alone would take an estimated 3.8 million wind turbines (each with twice the capacity of today’s largest machines), 720,000 wave devices, 5,350 geothermal plants, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, 40,000 solar photovoltaic plants, and 49,000 concentrated solar power systems. That’s a heckuva lot of neodymium.”

  12. vboring says:

    RE<C is easy.

    It is called large scale hydro. It powers the Pacific Northwest for about half the national average.

    North America still has many gigawatts of capacity – mostly in Canada and Alaska. The problem is that environmental regulations make it nearly impossible to build large dams and very expensive to build transmission lines.

  13. Chris Barker says:

    O/T – “Unprecedented Artic ice loss! Worst in 1450 years!” Published by Nature magazine – http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v479/n7374/full/nature10581.html

  14. pat says:

    Everyone of these technologies requires 100% back up by something that can produce electricity on demand rather than intermittently. These green technologies basically add meaningless cost to each watt.

  15. john says:

    Emerging patterns…

    First Wind wants to pull Bowers Mountain wind project — for now

    http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/16/news/penobscot/first-wind-wants-to-pull-bowers-mountain-wind-project-for-now/?ref=latest

    Wind power foes travel to Augusta

    http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/wind-powerfoes-travelto-augusta_2011-11-17.html

    Highland Wind, led by former Gov. Angus King and former Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. president Rob Gardiner, withdrew an application to the state this spring to erect 39 turbines in Highland. But the two said they plan to revise it and re-submit it later.

    Smart meter issues…..
    http://www.pressherald.com/news/electronics-on-the-fritz_-could-be-smart-meters_2011-11-19.html

  16. JB says:

    If you read the whole article you would know that Google is in a cost cutting mode and focusing more on what it does best. The work on heliostats and solar energy is being done by many other researchers in several countries. Experimentation in renewables WILL ultimately lead to the energy resources of the future. And THAT is a good thing. Open your eyes!

  17. Claude Harvey says:

    I’m guessing someone in high places over there finally got around to doing a back-of-the-envelope, best-possible-outcome, economic evaluation of those technologies and suffered a “holy s–t!” moment. I’ll also bet they had to drag The Goracle out of the boardroom red-faced, kicking and screaming when the vote came up.

  18. nc says:

    Google should have googled first, oh wait but they adjusted the algorithm. Caught in their own google.

  19. Fred from Canuckistan says:

    So even Google has to submit to the Laws of Physics.

    How refreshing.

  20. Gail Combs says:

    oebele bruinsma says:
    November 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Let the awakening commence! New technologies in general do not perform as advertised. This is based on the fact that not all important variables are identified and under control.
    __________________________
    Yeah

    From years in industry, I always figured it would cost at least twice as much and take three times as long as my original calculated estimate. It helped make my costing a lot closer to reality. (Thank goodness accounting never look asked for the input data)

  21. DirkH says:

    JB says:
    November 24, 2011 at 9:46 am
    “Experimentation in renewables WILL ultimately lead to the energy resources of the future. And THAT is a good thing.”

    Perfectly fine with me; as long as they don’t expect me to keep their installations afloat with constant injections of taxpayer money.

  22. Lark says:

    Showing results for Google
    Search instead for Boondoggle

  23. Gail Combs says:

    JB says:
    November 24, 2011 at 9:46 am

    If you read the whole article you would know that Google is in a cost cutting mode and focusing more on what it does best. The work on heliostats and solar energy is being done by many other researchers in several countries. Experimentation in renewables WILL ultimately lead to the energy resources of the future. And THAT is a good thing. Open your eyes!
    ___________________________________
    Renewables is all about scamming the tax payers and lemmings just like the banksters did during the Great Depression. “Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone has a written an explosive article on the exploits of Goldman Sachs.” http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/28816321/the_great_american_bubble_machine/print

    The Coming Carbon Bubble: http://www.iatp.org/blog/2009/07/the-coming-carbon-bubble

    Goldman Sachs and the 2008 Food Riots.
    http://johannhari.com/2010/07/02/how-goldman-sachs-gambling-on-starving-the-worlds-poor-and-won

    You want real renewable? Try Thorium Nuclear and with luck fusion.

  24. harrywr2 says:

    Experimentation in renewables WILL ultimately lead to the energy resources of the future.

    The Persian’s were experimenting with windmills sometime prior to 900 AD. One really has to admire people that believe a 1,000 year old technology that has been proven to be unreliable for 1,000 years believe that someday it will be reliable. It’s funny that the same people tend to want to ‘throw in the towel’ on nuclear power after only 60 years.

  25. Justa Joe says:

    JB says:
    November 24, 2011 at 9:46 am
    If you read the whole article you would know that Google is in a cost cutting mode and focusing more on what it does best. The work on heliostats and solar energy is being done by many other researchers in several countries. Experimentation in renewables WILL ultimately lead to the energy resources of the future. And THAT is a good thing. Open your eyes!
    ————
    I don’t see how marginally reducing the upfront fixed cost on a solar installation fixtures WILL go very far towards making solar viable.

  26. 1DandyTroll says:

    Fred from Canuckistan says:
    November 24, 2011 at 10:17 am
    “So even Google has to submit to the Laws of Physics.”

    It probably has more to do with submitting to the laws of subsidies. :p

  27. harrywr2 says:
    November 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

    The Persian’s were experimenting with windmills sometime prior to 900 AD. One really has to admire people that believe a 1,000 year old technology that has been proven to be unreliable for 1,000 years believe that someday it will be reliable. It’s funny that the same people tend to want to ‘throw in the towel’ on nuclear power after only 60 years.

    Hey, the Persians are about nuclear power these days. Maybe it’s because they couldn’t figure out how to kill Israelis with windmills.

    I know many people are looking forward to the installation of large-scale photovoltaic systems. Instead of paying the electric company inflated prices for power, you just grab your tool pouch and hop in your Ford F150, drive out in the boonies to the solar farm, cut loose as many panels as you can haul, and high tail it out of there. Then you stick a few panels on your own roof to get free power and use the rest in your newly minted, highly profitable, stolen solar cell home-retrofit business. What’s not to like?

  28. Leon Brozyna says:

    A “feel good” project doesn’t feel so good when the money comes out of your own pocket. At least they didn’t turn to the government for taxpayer dollars to keep to project afloat.

  29. Jean Parisot says:

    At what point would investment in more efficient compressors (cooling & refrigeration), processors, and transmission techniques producer better results then tilting after a renewables.

  30. pk says:

    the sad thing about it is that a neighbor about 30 years ago put a mirror type solar waterheater on the roof of his house.

    it didn’t work very well as he had to go out and garden hose the thing about once a week/month to keep the efficiency up (this in the center of the Los Angeles basin).

    then some of the festered rectums in the area flipped a chain up over it, hooked it onto the tow hitch on a pickup truck and dragged it down the street.

    about the time the ink on the police report was dry he recieved a letter from the city code enforcement office instructing him to remove it as it was an eyesore.

    you can’t even see the bolt holes in the roof anymore since the current owners reroofed the house. he is long moved to montana.

    C

  31. Udar says:

    George Turner,

    You lucky I was not drinking my coffee when I read that. Otherwise I’d have to sue you for cost of new MacBook Pro.

  32. FerdinandAkin says:

    On the overall master balance sheet at GOOGLE, the seven energy projects were funded under the ‘Advertising’ budget. With the economy in the condition it is, GOOGLE is cutting back on ineffective advertising campaigns.

    What? You thought GOOGLE was doing this for the electricity?

  33. JB says:

    Google’s work is not funded by tax dollars. But big oil (despite record profits) still is. Time to get your heads out of the (oil) sand.

  34. john says:

    Google offshore wind investment

    http://gigaom.com/cleantech/by-the-numbers-googles-offshore-wind-investment/

    All of the wind developers were rent seeking from the government.

    GE Dumps Offshore Wind-Power Plans AFTER Collecting $125 Million In Stimulus From Taxpayers For Wind Projects

    http://dailybail.com/home/ge-dumps-offshore-wind-power-plans-after-collecting-125-mill.html

  35. I just blogged regarding Australia’s (?bound to fail) green initiatives……………
    Has it worked? Is it beneficial? Will it solve the problem? How much did it cost? Are they reaping the benefits etc etc etc……

    From what I am reading, it seems that these ugly monoliths dotting the landscape and killing the wildlife, not to mention being held responsible for human sickness as well, only have a value so long as they are being subsidized by the Government. (Read your tax dollars)

  36. harrywr2 says:

    john says:
    November 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Google offshore wind investment

    Google’s offshore high voltage power line investment is safe. There is substantial opportunity for power arbitrage on the east coast of the US. I.E. Buying power in Virgina or somewhere and Selling in New York. The price variances between the various markets can be 4 or 5 cents a KWh.

  37. Justa Joe says:

    JB says:
    November 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm
    Google’s work is not funded by tax dollars. But big oil (despite record profits) still is. Time to get your heads out of the (oil) sand.
    ——————–
    “Renewables” are subsidized to greater degree than so-called big oil. Oil’s so-called subsidies come in the form of so-called tax “breaks” while renewables’ subsidies come in the form of direct payments, tax breaks, as well as regulations guaranteeing them a market. You really need to do some research on this issue. You’ll find that the subsidation of renewables dwarfs that of conventional energy in real dollars and especially if you consider per unit of energy produced.

    Since Fossil fuels pay enormous amounts in income taxes and considering the fact that due to the various excise taxes the government makes more profit on a gallon of gasoline than even the producers do it would be more fair to say that the fossil fuel industry subsidizes the government.

  38. Philip Bradley says:

    RE<C is easy.

    It is called large scale hydro. ,

    You can get a lot of useable energy out of small scale hydro.

    For every river that flows 100 cubicM/sec, there are approximately 10 tributaries that flow 10 cubic M/sec and 100 tributaries that flow 1 cubicM/sec. And of course many more rivers of this size that don’t flow into large rivers.

    For hundreds of years hydro power was chosen over wind every time. The reason Holland has those cute old windmills is because it is flat with no useable hydro.

    Were the Warmists serious about renewable energy they would be advocating things like daming Niagra Falls and all the rivers that flow out of Appalachia.

  39. old construction worker says:

    “harrywr2 says:
    November 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm
    john says:
    November 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm
    Google offshore wind investment
    Google’s offshore high voltage power line investment is safe. There is substantial opportunity for power arbitrage on the east coast of the US. I.E. Buying power in Virgina or somewhere and Selling in New York. The price variances between the various markets can be 4 or 5 cents a KWh”.

    Wow, that reminds me of the ENRON thing.

  40. Gary Mount says:

    What happened with all the hype of the Bloom Fuel Cell that supposedly discovered a cheap way of making fuel cells? Google had heavily invested resources into this I saw once or twice on 60 minutes. Did it all turn out to be a fraud?

  41. E.J.A. says:

    If someone actually read what Google said, they are not “abandoning” clean energy…their handing over their research to others on things like solar thermal energy, but continuing investment in PV solar and wind. They’re main justification is that consumer-level PV solar s so cheap now that is what they are interested in pursuing. Only a few months ago, they invested $280 million in residential solar with SolarCity.
    Pretty amusing how this was spun into the article referenced above, when what it really speaks about is how PV-solar parity is pretty much here already, and Google has recognized that.

  42. Spector says:

    Some of Kirk Sorensen’s Thorium Reactor presentations have been hosted on Google Tech Talks. As far as I know, this is the only technology that has been touted as being able to produce our current demand of energy at a price cheaper than current prices for coal or gasoline that has any real prospect of actually delivering on this promise. Due to the abundance of thorium in the Earth’s crust, it is indefinitely sustainable or as some might say ‘renewable.’

    Of course, if someone has been whispering in the gullible ears of a previous Google management that they could do this with solar or wind power, then Larry Page has put an end to a Green Dream money drain of the type that sunk Solyndra. Because the power derived from solar or geothermal energy must be collected over a large area, I am sure the Green Earth people would violently object to the massive installations and environmental destruction that would be required to collect all our energy by these means.

    ———-

    Here is an example Google TechTalk Thorium Nuclear video titled “Aim High,” given by Dr. Robert Hargraves, that dates back to the heydays of the “science is settled” and “The Inconvenient Truth” back in 2009. You can skip the first 16 minutes if you do not want to see the obligatory polar bear and Club of Rome population projections etc. that is primarily a presentation of hypothetical Global Warming and population hazards that might be painlessly obviated by a transition to this form of energy generation. As far as I can see, the Green Earth people are skeptical of this argument.

    Aim High: Using Thorium Energy to Address Environmental Prob
    Uploaded by GoogleTechTalks on May 26, 2009
    ”Google Tech Talk
    “May 26, 2009
    “Presented by Robert Hargraves.
    “Mankind’s fossil fuel burning releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and deadly air pollution. Natural resources are rapidly being depleted by world population growth. Safe, inexpensive energy from the liquid fluoride thorium reactor can stop much global warming and raise prosperity of humanity to adopt US and OECD lifestyles, which include lower, sustainable birth rates.”

    133 likes, 4 dislikes; 22,043 Views; 59:50 min

  43. ginckgo says:

    They’re just terminating research, not abandoning the renewables; quite the contrary actually:

    “Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of progress in clean energy. We’re excited that some technologies are so quickly approaching cost competitiveness with traditional forms of energy in parts of the US and the world. Power tower technology has come a long way, too. But the installed cost of solar photovoltaic technology has declined dramatically over the past few years, making solar photovoltaic technology a compelling choice for consumers.
    …..
    At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts. We will continue our work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy—including our on-campus efforts, procuring renewable energy for our data centers, making our data centers even more efficient and investing more than $850 million in renewable energy technologies.”
    http://www.google.org/rec.html

  44. Philip Bradley says:

    We’re excited that some technologies are so quickly approaching cost competitiveness with traditional forms of energy in parts of the US and the world.

    In a Bloomberg article today,

    The renewables boom, spurred by about $66 billion of subsidies last year

    You can double that $66billion to take into account the various taxes, royalties, etc paid by coal and oil and gas companies.

    Then probably double it again to take into account all the hidden costs of renewables, back up generating capacity, massive increase in grid size and costs, storage technology.

    The reason why Google is getting out of renewable energy is governments are cutting back on costly subsidies and demand has collapsed.

    The question that should be asked is, why a company as hugely succesful as Google is wasting its time with renewables subsidy farming? And more generally, why are governments funelling talent that could be put to productive use into wasteful subsidy farming?

  45. Justa Joe says:

    Google apologists,
    No outfit is going to create a press release where they admit that their investment(s) in whatever was an epic fail or just didn’t pan out the way that they wanted it to. They’re always going to attempt to put the best possible face on their actions. As far as solar “parity” with convetional power keep dreamin’. The amount of contribution of solar to the world’s energy requirement is negligible.

  46. John Marshall says:

    Reality can be a bitter pill to take after living in wonderland for so long.

  47. harrywr2 says:

    ginckgo says:
    November 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level.

    They sure are, Solyndra is bankrupt.

  48. kwik says:

    ginckgo says:
    November 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    “At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level.”

    What level would that be? Green bandit-gangs stealing directly from us at gun point?

  49. Spector says:

    As a point of balance, here is a reference to a web article that is critical of Kirk Sorensen’s proposed LFTR thorium reactor concept. I would hope that the problems raised by this writer will eventually prove to be illusory or soluble.

    daryanenergyblog
    A critical analysis of current and proposed future nuclear reactors designs
    Part 8 – The Molten Salt Reactor concept
    http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/ca/part-8-msr-lftr/

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