Google Goes for the Green

By Steve Bryant  |  Posted 06-19-2007
Its gigantism leading to increasing scutiny and attack, Google is attempting to burnish its image with a slate of socially responsible announcements, including grants to green automobile technologies and internal investments in renewable energy sources.

These grants are, however, small-bore compared to what other corporations have been giving.

Google.org, the for-profit philanthropic arm of Google, announced on June 19 $1 million in grants to several organizations as part of a new initiative to hasten the adoption of hybrid electric vehicles.

As part of the initiative, called RechargeIT, Google.org also announced plans for a $10 million request for proposals to fund the development and commercialization of plug-in vehicles, fully electric cars and related vehicle-to-grid technology.

"As you may know, one of Google.org's core missions is to address climate change," said Dan Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives for Google.org, in a post to the Google blog. "By accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrids and vehicle-to-grid [V2G] technologies, this new project...aims to reduce emissions and dependence on oil while promoting clean energy technologies and increasing consumer choice."

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Of the $1 million in grants, $800,000 will be distributed evenly among the Brookings Institution, CalCars, Electrical Power Research Institute, and the Rocky Mountain Institute. A sum of $150,000 will go to Dr. Willett Kempton, University of Delaware, for megawatt scale V2G research and implementation planning. Another $100,000 will go to Plug-In America to raise public awareness and advocate for plug-in transportation.

Google, as part of RechargeIT, also partnered with A123Systems/Hymotion to convert a small fleet of hybrid cars into plug-ins, and partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to offer a free car-sharing program for Google employees. The car share program, called Google Fleet, with eventually expand to include 100 plug-ins.

Google also announced today that the project to install solar panels at the company's Mountain View headquarters was completed. Google announced the project last October and the installation, which is designed to provide 1.6 megawatts of electricity, is the largest corporate campus installation in the world, according to EI Solutions, the company that installed the system.

RechargeIT is not the first of Google's environmental initiatives. The company recently sponsored the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making computers more energy-efficient. Google also recently sponsored the 6th annual Global Philanthropy forum.

Google announced the formation of Google.org in September 2006, providing seed money of about $1 billion and a mandate to tackle poverty, disease and global warming.

Google is a precocious benefactor compared to many of its corporate counterparts. But while Google.org was founded early relative to its age, the size of Google's munificence pales in comparison to other initiatives. For example Wal-Mart, the country's top corporate donor in 2005, gave away $272.9 million from profits of more than $12 billion.

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