Google shutters renewable energy initiative

Web giant ends support for its project, announced in 2007 to lower renewable energy costs, as part of wider company-wide spring cleaning effort started by CEO Larry Page.

Google is carrying on with its spring cleaning efforts started by CEO Larry Page as it sheds more of the marginal projects, including its Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C) initative, to focus on its core strengths.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of operations at Google, said this is part of the Web giant's off-season spring cleaning series and involves the shuttering of a number of products which have not had the impact the company had hoped for, as well as integrating others as features into its broader product portfolio and ending several which have "shown it a different path forward".

This round of spring cleaning include ending its RE<C initiative, which he said was "developed as an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy", with the engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology.

Explaining the decision, Hölzle said: "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."

He did point out that Google will continue its work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy through procuring renewable energy for its data centers and investing more than US$850 million in renewable energy technologies, among other efforts.

Google had been making investments and conducting research on technology which drove the price of renewable energy down since 2007, with particular focus on solar power technology. In 2009, the company's green energy czar, Bill Weihl, told Reuters that he expected to demonstrate within a few years working technology that could provide renewable energy at a cheaper price than coal.

"It is even odds, more or less," Weihl said at that time. "In three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there."

Besides RE<C, the other projects to be retired include Google Friend Connect, which allows Web masters to add social features to their sites, and Knol, which was launched in 2007 to help improve Web content by enabling experts to collaborate on in-depth articles, the blog post stated. 

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