Is Google Adding Energy Supplier to Its Growing List of Businesses?

Before the buzz on the Nexus One smartphone had died down, Google (GOOG) uncorked another whopper, with revelations that the company is getting into the electricity markets with the formation of a new entity called Google Energy, according to CNET. The company formed this new entity late last year. Google rep Niki Fenwick told CNET, "Right now, we can't buy affordable, utility-scale, renewable energy in our markets. We want to buy the highest quality, most affordable renewable energy wherever we can and use the green credits."%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% The search leader and up-and-coming player in the cell-phone market apparently has no specific plans to buy, sell or generate power. But Google's Fenwick said the firm wants more flexibility to pursue a more carbon-neutral and alternative-energy centric policy for pulling in power needed to run its massive global network of data centers and the millions of power-sucking servers that populate these data centers. At a minimum, Google may create an energy buying and selling facility that would allow it to more readily select the origin of power used to run Google's globe-spanning operational facilities and offices.

Google has been an active player in the alternative energy and smart grid space for some time., which includes the company's alternative-energy team, has invested in a number of promising alternative energy startups, such as AltaRock Energy and Potter Drilling. Potter Drilling is a geothermal energy play that is building a bit-less drill assembly designed to radically cut costs for geothermal energy-prospecting projects. These typically cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but can yield reliable and cheap alternative-energy generation capacity.

Google's engineers have also designed in house a new type of mirror that will improve the efficiency of solar-energy collection. And Google has also developed the Google PowerMeter, a home-energy tracking software product that will be matched with a hardware component, or an existing smart-meter program, and used to help homeowners track and manager their energy usage. Google also is a regular purchaser of carbon-offset credits that is uses to offset carbon output required to power its data centers.

Whether Google will actually go into the power-generation business, however, remains to be seen. A company founded and run by engineers, Google definitely has a do-it-yourself mentality that has informed the company's many moves into seemingly unrelated business lines. And with alternative energy financing still a tough sell, a deep-pocketed player like Google may see an opportunity to not only power its own facilities, but also to become a world-class utility with top talent running electricity generation using cutting-edge solar, wind and geothermal tools.
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