Monday, 18 October 2010

Google signs power agreement

You might think the title implies a further bid by the search engine (and much more) company to take over the world, but this is about Google investing in the development of a backbone transmission project for offshore wind generation off the US Mid-Atlantic coast.

It’s called the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone and will stretch for 350 miles along the coast from New Jersey to Virginia with the ability to connect 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines. The idea is to connect offshore power hubs that will collect the power from offshore wind farms and deliver it via sub-sea cables to the most suitable points on the land-based transmission system.

The backbone means that there will be no barriers to scaling up offshore wind production. The 6,000MW capacity is equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the US last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households.
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Google is investing 37.5% of the equity in this initial development stage, with the goal of obtaining all the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line. It’s a small but important part of overall costs. It’s not all altruistic, though, the investment promises a financial return as well as helping to accelerate offshore wind development.

It’s another in a long list of green investments and other actions by Google, which you have to admire. The ones I’ve noted in this blog in the last couple of years include:

• The company has invested $38.8m in two wind farms developed by NextEra Energy Resources.  Located in North Dakota, they generate 169.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 55,000 homes.

• As yet it’s only in the US, but as of March 2010 Google Maps has included biking directions and bike trail data.

• In the build-up to the Copenhagen climate conference a year ago the company launched a series of Google Earth layers and tours that allowed users to explore the potential impacts of climate change.

• Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, invested $10m in a technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). While the traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam and hot water, the EGS process takes it one step further by fracturing hot rock to replicate the natural conditions. By circulating water through the system the resulting steam can be used to produce electricity in a conventional turbine.

•  And my own favourite from 2008 - Google has had a patent approved in the US around the means to power floating data centres.

According to the patent the objective is to provide data centre and telecoms facilities quickly and flexibly, given the problems of getting access to power, data connections and cooling water, but it also has big implications in environmental and energy savings.

© The Green IT Review

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