Google Puts Spotlight On Energy, Access Efforts

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Google is giving a new prominence to its wide range of Internet access and power delivery projects, and to vice president Craig Barratt

In a sign of the rising prominence of Internet access and clean-energy initiatives within Google, the search engine giant has given a new visibility to Craig Barratt, the senior vice president of its Access and Energy operations.

Barratt now appears alongside long-time senior-level managers including Sundar Pichai, Sridhar Ramaswamy and Susan Wojcicki on a web page listing the company’s management team, placing Access and Energy on the same level as Google’s top projects, including Android, Ads and YouTube.

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Top executive team

The executives in charge of those projects and listed in that section of the page are also members of a group known as the “L team,” top advisers to Google chief executive Larry Page, and Barratt’s addition to the list reflects the fact that he has joined this group, according to a report by Bloomberg, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the company.

Barratt (not to be confused with former Intel chief executive Craig Barrett) joined Google last year after having been chief executive of Atheros Communications, a Wi-Fi chip maker acquired by Qualcomm in 2011 for $3.1 billion (£2bn). He was promoted to senior vice president at Google last month, according to his LinkedIn profile.

While Google has not disclosed exactly what falls under Barratt’s oversight, the company has in recent years invested heavily in Internet access schemes ranging from fibre-optic networks in large cities to satellites, drones and high-altitude balloons designed to provide access in underserved countries.

In its Internet-access efforts Google is working alongside competitor Facebook, whose access efforts include a project involving the use of solar-powered drones to beam access from the upper atmosphere. Facebook is also considering investing in access satellites.

Power investments

Google has also invested billions of pounds in clean-energy schemes, from wind farms in Oregon to solar energy plants in Germany.

The company is currently developing software and hardware tools for the management of power lines and other energy infrastructure in the US, according to Bloomberg’s report. As new power sources such as solar, wind and other renewable sources come online, power grids will need to be more flexible and efficient, and Google sees this as a “huge” opportunity for power-management tools, according to the report.

That technology is reportedly being developed by Google’s Energy Access team, led by Arun Majumdar, vice president of the company’s energy unit, itself part of Barratt’s group. Majumdar joined Google in December 2012, having previously worked at the US’ Department of Energy.

Google is seeking staff for its power delivery efforts, according to job postings on its website, one of which states that it is developing “solutions that aim to fundamentally change the world of power”.

The company acquired smart metering company Nest Labs earlier this year for $3.2bn and has invested in Atlantic Grid Development, an electricity-delivery project in New Jersey.

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