Mountain View, California [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] I thought that I was heading down to Mountain View, California, to check out the unveiling of the Google headquarters gigantic solar power installation yesterday, which at 1.6 megawatts (MW) is the largest installation of solar on a single corporate campus in the U.S. But the size of the array was only the tip of the iceberg.
"Clean energy technology can dramatically shift how we make and use energy for our cars and homes by charging cars through an electric grid powered by solar or other renewable energy sources, and selling power back to the electric grid when it's needed most. This approach can quadruple the fuel efficiency of cars on the road today and improve grid stability." -- Dr. Larry Brilliant, head of Google.org
Although Google's solar array has been unofficially generating power for the past four weeks, June 18th was the first official day it was in operation. In one day the system generated 9,468 kilowatt-hours of electricity. According to the Google website that tracks the system's energy production that is enough to power 39,329 alarm clocks for 24 hours or do 3,432 loads of laundry.
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, EI Solutions, the company that designed and installed Google's photovoltaic (PV) system, Inc., estimates the system will pay for itself in approximately 7.5 years.
After six months of construction, EI Solutions Inc., finished work on time and on budget, a real feat considering the varying topography of the buildings and the scale of the installation. The majority of the solar panels were installed on the rooftops of the Googleplex, which include multiple architectures and required the use of four different mounting systems.
The remaining panels were placed on newly constructed carports in two existing Google parking lots which allowed for additional capacity. Arial photos show a corporate campus paved with solar panels, 9,212 panels to be exact with each one manufactured by Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group.
The unveiling yesterday didn't stop at an extra large PV system. Dr. Larry Brilliant, head of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, got behind the podium and 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.
As part of this initiative, Google.org awarded $1 million in grants and announced plans for a $10 million request for proposals (RFP) to fund development, adoption and commercialization of plug-ins, fully electric cars and related V2G technology. The company also announced yesterday they had teamed with PG&E to demonstrate the bidirectional flow of electricity between plug-ins and the electric grid.
"By demonstrating the technology using our own fleet and supporting others through grants and investments, together we will drive toward a plug-in revolution," said Brilliant, noting that Google has been offering a $5,000 rebate to employees who purchase a vehicle that gets over 45 miles per gallon.
So, it's no surprise to find underneath Google's solar paneled carports, the parking lot is filled with 40+mpg Priuses as well as the new 100-150 mpg modified hybrids that plug into power cords hanging from the carports.
"Clean energy technology can dramatically shift how we make and use energy for our cars and homes by charging cars through an electric grid powered by solar or other renewable energy sources, and selling power back to the electric grid when it's needed most. This approach can quadruple the fuel efficiency of cars on the road today and improve grid stability," added Dr. Brilliant.
The plug-in system creates a flexible, mobile energy storage system capable of stabilizing the grid during peak use times.
"Plug-in hybrids are the best of both worlds between electric cars and the flexibility of a hybrid," said Chelsea Sexton, who you might recognize from the documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? "So a plug-in hybrid is a vehicle where maybe your first 40 miles of the day are all electric, Monday through Friday you may never use gasoline. But if you wanted to drive to Vegas on the weekend you have the flexibility to do that by putting gasoline in the tank as a backup. We call plug in hybrids electric vehicles with safety nets."
"Once people try plugging in they don't want to go back to the gas station," added Sexton.
In addition to the $10 million RFP, the RechargeIT initiative includes grants to the following organizations and is inagurating the below projects:
• Brookings Institution: $200,000 to support a spring 2008 conference on federal policy to promote plug-ins;
• CalCars: $200,000 to support its work to educate the public about plug-ins;
• Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI): $200,000 to support its plug-in research and development program;
• Plug-In America: $100,000 to raise public awareness and advocate for plug-in transportation;
• Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI): $200,000 to enable RMI to launch the design of a practical plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, with additional support and collaboration by Alcoa, Johnson Controls, and the Turner Foundation;
• Dr. Willett Kempton, University of Delaware: $150,000 for megawatt-scale vehicle-to-grid research and implementation planning;
• Plug-In Data Project: To demonstrate the potential of this new technology, Google has partnered with A123Systems/Hymotion to convert a small fleet of hybrid cars into plug-ins and published preliminary performance data at www.google.org/recharge/. The experimental fleet of plug-in Prius models has averaged 74 mpg to date, compared with 41 mpg for the test fleet of non-plug-in Prius hybrids;
• Google Fleet: Through a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the Google Fleet is a program designed to support alternative commuting through a free car-sharing program that will be offered to Google employees. The program will eventually expand to include 100 plug-ins as they become available.