Google quits plans to make cheap renewable energy

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:24am EST

The Google Inc logo is projected on a screen during the unveiling of ''Google Instant'' at a news conference in San Francisco, California September 8, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The Google Inc logo is projected on a screen during the unveiling of ''Google Instant'' at a news conference in San Francisco, California September 8, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc has abandoned an ambitious project to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, the latest target of Chief Executive Larry Page's moves to focus the Internet giant on fewer efforts.

Google said on Tuesday that it was pulling the plug on seven projects, including Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal as well as a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia service known as Knol.

The plans, which Google announced on its corporate blog, represent the third so-called "spring cleaning" announcement that Google has made since Google co-founder Page took the reins in April.

The changes come as Google is facing stiff competition in mobile computing and social networking from Apple Inc and Facebook, and as some investors have groused about rising spending at the world's No.1 Internet search company.

"To recap, we're in the process of shutting down a number of products which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for, integrating others as features into our broader product efforts, and ending several which have shown us a different path forward," wrote Google Senior Vice President of Operations Urs Holzle in the blog post.

Google said that it believed other institutions were better positioned to take its renewable energy efforts "to the next level."

Google began making investments and doing research into technology to drive down the price of renewable energy in 2007, with a particular focus on solar power technology.

In 2009, the company's so-called Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl, told Reuters that he expected to demonstrate within a few years working technology that could produce renewable energy at a cheaper price than coal.

"It is even odds, more or less," Weihl said at the time. "In three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there."

A Google spokesman said that Weihl had left Google earlier this month.

Google noted in its blog post that it would continue efforts to generate "cleaner, more efficient energy," including procuring renewable energy for its data centers.

Among the other projects included in Tuesday's "spring cleaning" were Google Knol, Google Search Timeline, Google Gear, Google Friend Connect, Google Bookmarks Lists and Google Wave, an ill-fated social networking and communication service that Google had previously said it would cease developing.

Google said that in December its email and calendar applications will no longer work with Gears technology, which allows Google's software to work when not connected to the Internet. Google said it is working to create offline capabilities into HTML5 technology instead.

Google Friend Connect, which allows website publishers to add social features to their sites, will be retired in March for all non-Blogger websites, Google said. It suggested that websites use its Google+ social network instead.

Earlier this year, Google said it would "wind down" Google Labs, a website that offered public access to experimental Google products, as well as terminating products that let consumers monitor their home energy consumption and keep track of their personal health records.

Shares of Google, which finished Tuesday's regular trading session down 94 cents, were up 86 cents at $580.86 in after hours trading.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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Comments (15)
whatever_dude wrote:
And now Google is just like every other company. Well, it was fun while it lasted…

Nov 22, 2011 7:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
CppThis wrote:
Congratulations Google, you managed to learn what everybody else did in the 70s–renewable just doesn’t work as well as fossil and nuke and throwing a bunch of computer science professors at it won’t change anything. Anyway, the take-home point from the company’s ongoing realignment is that, like a lot of large organizations, they were spending far too much time and energy on multiple competing projects with marginal commercial or goodwill value. Unlike a lot of large organizations, Google doesn’t have the luxury of relying on corporate welfare to offset the gross inefficiency. Yes they bought King Barry but he’s proven rather less than reliable since other “investors” are louder and have stronger Chicago connections, plus none of the stuff they wanted easily monetizes in the sense that, say, nobody questioning Microsoft’s product bundling to corner the all-important business software market until the end of time gives them enough spare cash to throw at a half-dozen dubious social media projects without anybody batting an eye.

In other words, Google needs to pick four or five things it wants to do *really* well and focus on that rather than taking the core business for granted and allowing somebody else to give them the Altavista treatment.

Nov 22, 2011 10:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Koan wrote:
Investors grouse, innovation dies, greed thrives, or was it political Google? Did a cheap renewable energy source cheaper than coal actually begin to appear viable causing a political backlash at a time you couldn’t afford any enemies?

Nov 23, 2011 9:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
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