Google’s Green Drive Switches Focus

Google’s initiative to make renewables cheaper than coal is changing tack after the company failed to find potential breakthroughs with low enough risk. The project, which started in 2007, will now focus on less revolutionary technologies.

“A lot of our early work was very focused on what you might think of as the early stage research and development,” Bill Weihl, who heads Google’s renewable energy team, told Reuters.

“In the last year we’ve been a little more focused on finding things that will drive the demonstration and deployment end.”

Google announced this week it would fund the development of a multibillion-dollar transmission line for a wind farm off the Atlantic coast of the US, its third wind-related investment this year as the company targets technology that is no longer cutting edge but not yet mainstream.

But Weihl admitted that the change in policy reflects a disappointing failure to find promising innovations – the “home run” ideas that are transformative without being too risky.

“It’s a little bit bleak,” he told Reuters at the Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco.

“I was probably overly optimistic two years ago, three years ago, or even last year.”

The goal of enabling renewables to undercut coal is still years away, he added.

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