In 2007, Google launched an initiative called Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C) through Google.org as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy. Through RE<C, Google was able to make several investments in various companies working on potentially breakthrough technologies within the green energy sector. For instance, they invested in companies like Brightsource Energy and eSolar to help expand their work and knowledge in concentrating solar power technology in a more global matter. They also sponsored research to develop the first Geothermal Map of the United States to help better understand the potential for geothermal energy. But even with these concentrated efforts, scientist, engineers, and the rest of the Google team have come to the difficult conclusion that renewable energy may not be a reality just yet.
Now, Google and Google scientist are not climate change deniers. Instead, they have come to the stark realization that if we are looking to transition to a greener power system, it would require two to three times more generating capacity to provide the same amount of electricity as a coal or natural gas plant. In addition, these structures would require an astronomical amount of steel, concrete, copper, carbon fibers, and other raw materials that would have to be shipped, placed, and built over time. All of this output requires a copious amount of energy that, in turn, would defeat its overall purpose in providing a safer alternative option. Google states:
“Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating, and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fiber, neodymium, shipping and hauling, etc., would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms—and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.”
Even though RE<C retired their initiatives, they are still continuing to work and support renewable energy in a variety of other ways. One of the ways in how they are helping the scientific community is by publishing much of their work and theories online for scientist and engineers to utilize for future projects. While there is still a long way to go before alternative green energy options can be accepted and utilized on a global scale, Google is still trying to continue their work to the cause through on-campus efforts and various investments to further develop and deploy renewable energy technology. Until there is an answer, we as a society must never stop until we find a viable solution to this ever-growing problem.