Google: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal?

Last week Google announced their Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C) initiative. This is a two pronged effort combining external investment with internal Google research. The external investments include $10M in Makani Power, a startup aiming to harness high altitude winds. Makani explains that high altitude winds have the highest energy density of any renewable energy source. Google also invested in eSolar as part of this program. eSolar is a startup aiming to produce utility scale solar energy farms ranging from 25MW to 500MW.

More detail on:

· Makani:

· eSolar:

In addition to the external investments, Google is staffing a team with a mission of assembling 1 Gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. More detail at:

It’s hard to argue with the “cheaper than coal” target. If renewable resources actually could be less expensive than coal, they would be used without social pressure, government subsidies, or other external tweaks to the market. Looking at the business side, this looks like a good marketing investment for Google as well. Google’s datacenter footprint continues to grow at an unprecedented pace while, at the same time, datacenter power consumption is becoming an social concern and attracting regulatory attention. This investment is clearly a well timed and well thought through business investment as well.


James Hamilton, Windows Live Platform Services
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