Google thinks green to power its business

Google aiming to create 50 megawatts of renewable generating capacity by 2012

Nine thousand two hundred and twelve. That's the number of solar panels that cover eight rooftops at Google's Mountain View, California, headquarters.

But that's only the beginning. To reach its goal of creating 50 megawatts of renewable generating capacity for its operations by 2012, Google is looking into the use of various forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and fuel cells, said Robyn Beavers, director of green business and operations strategy at Google.

"We'll make sure we evaluate them all thoroughly and make the right choices that work for Google," said Beavers, who was at the Conference on Clean Energy in Boston this month to talk about Google's plans to become a more energy-efficient company.

"This past May we switched on our system, which is 1.6 megawatts of solar panels in our Mountain View headquarters campus," she said in an interview. "And we've also built two carport structures -- shade structures over outdoor parking lots -- and mounted solar panels over the tops of those. You can park underneath the solar panels and charge your hybrid vehicle from the sun."

In addition, Beavers said Google installed solar hot water modules that use the sun's energy to heat the water in its new office in Hyderabad, India. The solar modules will cover all the hot water usage in the entire office building, she said. The company also negotiated discounts with residential solar panel installers in California so it can offer discounts to Google employees who want to put solar panels on their own homes, she said.

"We try to encourage our employees to become more environmentally friendly in their own lives," Beavers said. "So we also offer employees a fuel-efficient vehicle incentive. If an employee buys an eco-friendly vehicle, we give them a rebate; the less gas an employee's vehicle uses, the more money they get, starting at US$1,000 for a typical hybrid."

Google is also in the process of doing a massive energy-efficiency overhaul, which includes performing energy audits at all of its office buildings, she said.

"We're counting light bulbs, figuring out where we use electricity and how much, and then we make energy-efficient retrofits based on that data," Beavers said, such as replacing old fluorescent bulbs with more energy-efficient ones, she said.

"We'll change all of our lighting and use fewer bulbs, which will save money in electricity and help pay for the overall project," she said.

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