There has been much written already about the corporate environmental leadership that Google has shown. And in his world where such leadership is almost always left wanting, it has to be complimented. Not only has Google been a part of sponsoring several cleantech initiatives especially through its Google Foundation, its founders (role-models for many) drive fuel efficient hybrids and have set clear directives for its employees to adopt more ‘green’ lifestyles.
And now the most visible display of Google’s environment-consciousness has been revealed. It is the most massive, largest corporate installation of solar panels at its Googleplex headquarters in Mountainview, CA. The majority of the solar panels (around 9212 to be exact) have been installed atop rooftops of the Googleplex and the remaining on top of the newly constructed parking Garages which also provide cords for plug-in electric vehicles. The photovoltaic solar panels have been designed and installed by a company called EI solutions, a remarkable feat in under 9 months.
The total installed capacity of this solar grid is 1.6MW. That is a big number! In one day the system generated 9,468 kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is enough electricity to power 83,000 hours of flat-screen TV viewing each day (see live Google stats on this solar installation). Google expects to save more than $393,000 annually in energy costs—or close to $15 million over the 30-year lifespan of its solar system. At this rate, the system should be able to pay for itself in roughly 7-8 years.
This is not the only way in which Google has taken a leadership stance in promoting clean energy and resource efficiency. It is already famous for having probably the largest employee density of people driving hybrid vehicles. Dr. Larry Brilliant, head of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, has already announced the search engine company’s new Recharge It program—a Google.org initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. It is estimated that commercial plug-in hybrids will be able to go ~40miles without any fuel use, which might be plenty for weekday commuting to work for most people. The gas engine will, in that case, act as a backup in case a longer trip has to be taken.
According to a news article, Google has been offering a $5,000 rebate to employees who purchase a vehicle that gets over 45 miles per gallon. That is wonderful. Nothing better than a direct cash incentive program. Hybrids, and especially the plug-in hybrids would get there. But so will diesel. In fact, with such a rebate from the employer a diesel powered vehicle would actually be cheaper than buying an ordinary low mpg gasoline car. Remember my note earlier than Honda is introducing a diesel car in the US that will get roughly 62.8mpg? Honda is not the only company introducing high fuel efficient diesel models in the US. Trust me that for long distance commutes, clean diesel powered cars will be more fuel efficient than a plug-in or gas-hybrid. The only thing sexier would be a diesel-hybrid! Now that’s what I am waiting for….