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Google Power The Almighty Buck

Google's Wind, Solar Power Investments Top $1B 74

Posted by timothy
from the blowin'-in-the-wind dept.
Lucas123 writes "Google just announced it is investing another $80 million in six new solar power plants in California and Arizona, bringing its total investment in renewable energy to more than $1 billion. The new plants are expected to generate 160MW of electricity, enough to power 17,000 typical U.S. homes. They are expected to be operational by early 2014. With the new plants, Google's renewable power facilities will be able to generate a total of 2 billion watts (gigawatts) of energy, enough to power 500,000 homes or all of the public elementary schools in New York, Oregon, and Wyoming for one year, it said. Currently, Google gets about 20% of its power from renewable energy, but it has set a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy."
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Google's Wind, Solar Power Investments Top $1B

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  • by HuguesT (84078)

    Watt is a unit of power, not energy. So the content is completely impossible to assess. Are we to assume Wh (Watt-hours) instead? 2GWh would be a significant power plant output, the equivalent of a full nuclear power plant, however is this peak capacity? This would be far less impressive as average capacity would be significantly less.

    • by khallow (566160)
      What's with the drama? Electricity generating facilities of all kinds are routinely described in terms of peak capacity.
      • What's with the drama? Electricity generating facilities of all kinds are routinely described in terms of peak capacity.

        But a coal or gas plant can maintain that peak almost 24/7. Solar is at peak production for only a few hours per day. So a 1GW solar plant will produce about a quarter of the energy of a 1GW coal plant. Measuring by peak power is silly if you want to be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison.

        • Re: Peak Capacity (Score:5, Informative)

          by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @02:48PM (#45443941)

          Peak capacity is used throughout the electrical industry, from the generators to the nameplates of the devices in your house. The reason is the peak determines the size of the wires - in your walls or for transmission lines - to carry the load safely. For power sources, the other number you care about is "capacity factor", the percentage of peak capacity you can supply on average. It may be 90+% for nuclear (they still shut down for refueling, and sometimes for unplanned maintenance), and lower for other sources. Even hydroelectric has a limit if the water supply is less than peak turbine capacity. Photovoltaic can be as low as 15% in poor locations, while solar-thermal with storage can be much higher.

          Less than 100% capacity factor is OK, because no power plant routinely operates at 100% capacity. For one thing, customer demand has daily and seasonal variations. For another, every plant stops for maintenance sometimes. Lastly, each power source has a different marginal operating cost. Hydroelectric, wind, and solar don't burn a fuel, so are relatively cheap per kWh when they run. Coal and natural gas consume fuel, thus have higher marginal cost when they run. A utility operator wants the cheapest mix to satisfy demand at any given time. Since natural gas prices can fluctuate dramatically over the life of a plant, one thing solar does is stabilize their costs. You know for sure that a solar plant will still not be burning fuel at the end of it's life. You have no idea what natural gas will cost in 40 years.

          As far as photovoltaic peak production only being part of the day, that is well matched to the US southwest, where the peak air-conditioning demand happens exactly when solar has maximum power. Something like nuclear is better suited to baseload power, the part of demand that is always there. A nuclear reactor is a bitch to turn on and off, so they would rather keep it running all the time between refuelings.

          If you are going to discuss power grids, you need to stop using just one performance parameter. That's not how real grids operate.

        • by forty-2 (145915)

          How many kilojoules per public elementary school is that?

      • Electricity generating facilities of all kinds are routinely described in terms of peak capacity.

        True enough, but this sentence pretty clearly shows that this is a case of an article written by somebody who has no idea what watts are -- since the "peak capacity" explanation doesn't make any sense in context.

        Google's renewable power facilities will be able to generate a total of 2 billion watts (gigawatts) of energy, enough to power 500,000 homes or all of the public elementary schools in New York, Oregon, and Wyoming for one year...

    • The answer to your question would be: 6.31 zettawatt hours [google.com]. Over the lifespan of our solar system.[1]

      [1] Post assumes reader is a member of Earth's solar system. Apologies to any alien forms or supernatural deities.

  • $80M/17,000 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @02:02PM (#45443679)

    $4,700 per house.

    115M homes in USA - 115Mx4.7K

    $0.54 Trillion dollars to have solar to every US household. We need baseline power, and some areas of the USA would be less effective for solar, but that $0.54T investment ought to cover around 50% of electricity needs in the US. It would also help to usher in the era of electric cars.

    Dammit, the cost of Iraq/Afghanistan has been projected at ten times that amount ($6 Trillion). So much for "securing energy supplies".

    • That's not how capitalism works at all.

      If they have to use 10 times the amount to get just a little bit richer and more powerful - especially if it's your money - you can be damn sure they'll do it.

    • Dammit, the cost of Iraq/Afghanistan has been projected at ten times that amount ($6 Trillion). So much for "securing energy supplies".

      It is a fallacy that you can justify doing something just by pointing out that we already did something even dumber. Any proposal should be considered on its own merits.

    • How much would such an expenditure increase demand? You wouldn't be able to even order that many solar cells to be delivered in any kind of reasonable time frame...
    • You missed the part where that 80M brought their total investment up to 1B to cover those 17,000 homes. That makes the cost per home 59K. Which is more that an order of magnitude more than you .54 T number.
  • "100% of its power from renewable energy"

    NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

    What they'll be doing is using traditional brown power and offsetting that with renewable energy "credits".

    This is so blatantly NOT 100% renewable that it isn't even funny.

    • If they've hit 20% I don't see why 100% isn't possible. Now, they'll still probably need to offset with grid power, but I bet they've calculated that they'll be able to achieve a net independence (giving back more power than they take).

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        He's saying that if they produce 1,000,000 MW in a year, and dump that into the grid, and use 1 MW in a year, pulled from the grid, you'll never be able to prove that every electron they used came from solar. Thus it's as bad as everything else.

        It's a stupid argument, but it's a common anti-solar argument. "if the sun isn't shining, you use grid like everyone else, so you don't use solar." But if you consider the grid a battery, you put in more than you take out, so you do use only solar.
        • There's something else Google could do, too, if there were ever so much wind and solar that electricity became sufficiently extremely expensive when it's dark and calm compared to when it isn't: power off servers there and route more traffic somewhere light or windy. Or, say, leave the spidering for later. Given the the cost of servers and bandwidth it might have to be seriously extreme, mind.
  • What will they do the following year?

    • What will they do the following year?

      I personally don't care as long as they don't use our tax dollars subsidize 30% of it. If solar and wind meet their needs, "more power to them". There is value in carrying the green label, as well as having some independence.

  • by houghi (78078) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @03:10PM (#45444097)

    Does the energy actually go to those schools, or is it just a nice way to saying it in a marketing wording?

    Because what I read is that Google uses enough to power 2.5 million homes. (20% = 500.000 homes) Making the energy themselves is more cost efficient then buying it and green energy is cheaper and/or easier and/or faster to get into then oil or coal.

    Basically cutting out the middle man. Has been done by industry for a long time.

    • I was told 1.21GW was enough.
    • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@yaHORSEhoo.com minus herbivore> on Saturday November 16, 2013 @06:32PM (#45445143)

      I was wondering how far down the page I would have to get before someone pointed out what should be obvious. Google's highest cost is energy. Getting into the energy business does two things. First it gives them what the tards a !Yahoo were too stupid to get into, a "brick and mortar" presence so they have a tangible value. Second, it removes the highest negative from their spreadsheet.

    • by Kuruk (631552)
      If our moronic governments wont build solar / wind and hydro power its good that corporations do.

      Seems corporations can look long term while our governments say short sighted. No wonder our moronic governments are schooled by business as well.

      It just the poor saps working and paying tax that get the short stick.
  • HOW ARE YOU GENTLEMEN
    All your base load are belong to US
    You are on the way to destruction.
    What you say??
    Make your time.

    Every time some company like Google announces funding for some Tempest or Solaris farm somewhere I wince. It's not the money, it's the very idea of the thing. The Internet is 24/7, and they're supposed to be the smartest guys & gals in the room. How can they get behind and forge ahead on something that won't even solve their own problems?

    How did this decades-long solar slash wind fixati

    • For great justice.

    • by catprog (849688)

      Interesting you say volcanic dust could shut down solar. Despite at least two volcanoes shutting down a large part of air travel I have not seen any indication of solar panels being affected

      How can they be sure the sun reduction will not lead to an Ice age?

      They have looked at how much the reduction is predicted (in the worse case) to be and how much the CO2 increase is predicted to be.

      And months of storage does not mean much compared with 70-300 years.

      What happens when the remote mines get hit by the eleme

      • Interesting you say volcanic dust could shut down solar. Despite at least two volcanoes shutting down a large part of air travel I have not seen any indication of solar panels being affected

        Thanks for listening. We have not yet experienced a Big One in the industrial age.

        The most recent global weather phenomenon that has been ascribed to volcanism was "1816, the year without a Summer" [wikipedia.org], triggered by an eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. "In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent "dry fog" was observed in the northeastern US. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the "fog". It has been characteriz

        • by catprog (849688)

          The most noticeable thing I notice about your scenarios is electricity is not the biggest problem. And the most common is 1 in a 1000 years,

          Given the wind is now one of the cheapest forms of power, using wind to power CO2 sequesters is probably a good match. Especially because you do not need base load for it. If you can turn the sequesters off quickly it is even better.

          Or you use the wind electricity to make hydrocarbons.

  • What they need to do is capture the energy of all the hate for the Google+ comments on youtube. That's got to be a few megawatts.

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