Clean Energy in California

Day 4: Envisioning the Future of Clean Energy
by -- March 10th, 2010

After three days of visiting electricity generation sites, speaking with utilities, and learning about the culture for progressive energy-related policy and thought in San Francisco, we thought we had seen it all…  and then we went to Google. Now I can die a happy man.

There is no other company in the world like Google. An overwhelming number of its employees ride bikes, or carpool to work. I hesitate to even use the word “work” to refer to what employees at Google do. On the campus we saw: a volleyball court, swimming pools (that’s right, there are more than one of them), video games, and doctor’s and chiropractor’s offices to name a few. Did I mention that all the food is free, organic, and locally produced?

After touring the facilities, we had a chance to sit down and hear from Bill Wiehl about Google.org and the energy-related initiatives at Google.  Specifically, he talked to us about RE<C, REchargeIT, and the PowerMeter initiatives at Google. Feel free to check out the hyperlinks to learn more about each initiative, but in case you would prefer an overly brief synopsis of each, see below:

 

  • RE<C – “Renewable Energy less than Coal”. The goal of this initiative is simple. Strategically invest in key technologies and policies that will drive down prices of renewable energy to the point where they are cheaper than the price of coal.
  • REchargeIT – The REchargeIT initiative aims is to accelerate the mass commercialization of plug-in vehicles. The means by which Google.org hopes to accomplish this goal is by seeding innovation, demonstrating technology, and simulating market demand.
  • PowerMeter – The PowerMeter is a free software tool that allows you to view your home’s real-time energy consumption using information from utility smart meters and in-home energy management devices.

 

Hopefully that wasn’t too simplified. I could go on for hours. Seriously, I love Google that much. I can ensure you that my colleagues on this trip feel the same. However, the show must go on, and after what seemed like only a moment, we continued on our way to our next stop at Better Place.

For those who don’t already know, Better Place is an electrical vehicle services and infrastructure provider. They install charging stations for plug-in and battery electric vehicles (see picture below), and battery exchange stations where customers can swap out their battery on longer trips. Better Place is currently rolling out scaled infrastructure in Denmark and Israel, with plans to expand to California by 2020. Their IT and business analytics were nothing short of something a Disney Imagineer dreams of.

Back at the hotel, we had a chance to hear from Current Group, a smart grid company that provides smart grid sensing products. These products help utilities control electricity flow through transmission lines to more closely meet demand, and offer large gains in energy efficiency and increased revenue in the process.

We capped of a truly educational day with a talk from A.J. Simon at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL). He told us all about Fusion Energy. The LLNL has already achieved laser fusion in a laboratory, and will likely do it again this year at a energy surplus. Although the potential for scaled fusion electricity potential is 20 to 50 years out, it’s still encouraging to learn about a future source of energy that has the potential to provide a huge amount of energy with a limited impact to the environment.

Our trip is almost complete, and we have hardly had a chance to digest what we saw and heard on this trip. The plan tonight is to head in to San Francisco, have a few laughs, and enjoy our last night together in California. Thanks for reading the blog! Feel free to drop us a line if you want to hear more about the trip.

 

7 Comments

  1. Oklahoma City Chiropractor
    Apr 6, 2010

    I have to agree with you that the Google complex is absolutely unreal. I had a chance to visit a few years back and it is by far the most advanced workplace I have ever seen. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves while working, and like you said, every last need can be met at their complex, so employees never have to leave.

    The google.org initiatives look interesting as well, I look forward to reading more about those!

  2. fixed gear bike
    May 10, 2010

    I think it’s about time that more companies offered a bikepool for their workers, to encourage them to use cleaner methods to get to work. Maybe an extra day off a month if they ride in.?

  3. George W Kukurin DC DACAN
    May 20, 2010

    I drove through the desert recently out side of Palm Springs. I was amazed at the acres and acres of wind farms. I’m not so sure that these wind farms scar the countryside any less than more conventional sources of energy.

    Dr. George W Kukurin Chiropractic Physician

  4. John McNeal
    Nov 15, 2010

    LONDON – The world’s largest offshore wind farm opened off the southeast coast of England on Thursday, as part of the British government’s push to boost renewable energy.

    With the opening of the Thanet wind farm, Britain now has the capacity to produce 5 gigawatts of wind-powered energy — roughly the amount of energy needed to power all the homes in Scotland, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said.

    Britain gets only 3 percent of its energy from renewable sources but is aiming for a target of 15 percent by 2020. The nation ranks 25th of 27 European Union countries on action on green power.

    “We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum,” Huhne said at a ceremony at sea as he officially opened the Thanet wind farm.

  5. Dr. Jason Franchi
    Nov 29, 2010

    I think any form of green energy is good for the enviroment.

  6. H. Tieben
    Dec 2, 2010

    In Germany Google set up a huge wind farm project providing investment opprtunities for local citizens in the form of a limited partnership. Very good project.

    Best regards

    Ht. Tieben

  7. jjones444
    Jan 14, 2011

    It is great to see how many people, schools, and companies are finally realizing what needs to be done to help the environment, and the best part is that we are actually making a difference now. Instead of just talking about Going Green, we are really doing it. We’re creating alternative energies faster than I can keep track of. It’s fantastic!

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff