October 17, 2006
But Google Goes Greener
Posted by Christine Hurt

The NYT reports today that Google will convert unused rooftop space on its headquarters' buildings and parking structures into a solar power system that will provide 30% of the electricity to the company.  Google will still be a customer of PG&E, but hopes to see its electricity bill shrink over time as the system pays for itself.  As we talk about here, very few acts that we term "corporate social responsibility" are undertaken with the notion that they will create a net loss for the company.  Either the action will create good publicity and attract customers, increase employee morale and assist in recruiting, or at the very least create a tax deduction and an opportunistic benefit for a decisionmaker and the decisionmaker's charity.  Here, Google states that not only will the system pay for itself over time, and perhaps generate a profit if excess capacity can be resold to PG&E, but this move to solar power will also attract "smart, high-level engineers" to the company.

Large companies, particularly companies with manufacturing facilities, have experimented with ways to cut electricity costs.  Some facilities, such as petrochemical plants and even Anheuser-Busch have taken to generating their own electricity by way of cogeneration facilities.  Google can't buid a co-gen because it just generates search results, not heat, and it can't harness the power of steam the way a manufacturing plant can.  Is solar the New Economy's co-gen?

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