Google Pulls Plug On Renewable Energy Research

Among other cuts, Google has scrapped the RE>C project but has posted its results for others to use

Google is cutting back on its projects and has announced a major casualty will be its Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE>C) initiative.

Google CEO Larry Page is taking the late Steve Jobs’ advice to avoid “becoming a Microsoft” by cutting the breadth of its project work and concentrating on doing fewer things well. The RE>C project is somewhat extra curricular to Google’s core business.

Google is also winding up other projects such as Bookmarks Lists, Friend Connect, Gears, Search Timeline, and the Knol expert knowledge-sharing service. It has also announced that Wave users will no longer be able to create new entries from the end of January – though it will still be accessible as a read-only resource for the foreseeable future.


In a blog posting announcing the closures, Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of Operations and Google fellow, wrote about RE>C: “At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level.”

The company has published its research results for others to pick up the renewable energy torch and advance the work done on solar power tower technology. However, Hölzle stresses that this will not affect Google’s other work in this field – primarily the setting up of sustainable energy data centres and its $850 million (£546m) investment in renewable energy technologies.

The solar power tower project envisages using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. By concentrating the sun’s heat in this way, electricity can be generated without consuming unrenewable resources.

The process has been successfully demonstrated in small-scale implementations but last April Google invested $168 million (£108m) in the world’s largest power tower project, currently being constructed in the Mojave Desert: the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). The project is set to be completed in 2013 when it is estimated it will generate 392 MW of clean energy.