Google Gets Into the Energy Business

HP, Yahoo also looking at how to keep the juice flowing

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Jan 8, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM EDT
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Google Gets Into the Energy Business

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Google wants the right to buy and sell electricity.

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Would you buy your electricity from Google?

It's an interesting question, and one that's arisen after the Mountain View-based Internet company formed a subsidiary named Google Energy and a petitioned the federal government to be allowed to buy and sell electricity on the wholesale market.

But while energy consumers across the country would problably welcome somebody, anybody to compete with their local monopolist electric company, it's not likely you'll be able to plug your Nexus One into a Google-powered wall socket any time soon.

Instead, the company's stated goal is to have more freedom to purchase energy from renewable energy sources, such as from cleantech startups that it has also invested in, including geothermal and wind energy projects.

The move could also make it easier to control the costs of power-hungry data centers by allowing Google to hunt for the cheapest possible electricity available at any given time.

But, like Wal-Mart's successful petition to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market, Google hasn't necessarily ruled out selling electricity on the open market as well.

Also looking to control costs and improve efficiency of large-scale data centers, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard recently won grants from the Department of Energy to fund new projects.

The grants, announced by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, are from stimulus spending money given to the DOE from the economic recovery act passed by congress.

Yahoo will use its $9.9 million to work on cooling data centers with ambient air, instead of energy-hungry air conditioning. Hewlett-Packard's $7.4 million will go towards testing ways to power data centers with wind and solar power.

Jackson West would rather have community choice aggregation than Google competing with PG&E, but would definitely prefer some competition at all.

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