Google’s Gamble On Offshore Wind Pays Off

I blogged about Google’s investment into 7,000 mega watts of offshore wind farms, off of the eastern coast of the United States, back during the fall of 2010:

“Google is making several calculated and risky bets on the future of technology. From computer-driven vehicles in California that do not require any driver interaction, to multi-billion dollar wind farms off of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Specifically, Google is targeting the Atlantic seaboard from Virginia to New England. There, Google is installing an undersea cable to transport, as of yet un-built energy from wind farms, off of the coast. Many believe that Google’s continued push with large investments in wind energy will jump-start the off-shore wind market and position Google to hold a near monopoly on off-shore wind during the first few years of the initial boom [1].

Google Wind Production in North Dakota {2}

Because of the new nature of offshore wind, the legislative procedure has not been formulated for this type of alternative energy. This has caused an 8-year lag between the time the Cape Cod offshore wind project was put-forth and the time it will actually begin construction (now). I believe that given Google’s cash flows and sheer size and history for innovation, their push might be what the off-shore wind movement needs to spur quicker turnaround. Furthermore, Google cannot wait 8 years for a return on its investment and I believe Google will avidly push for off-shore wind. Companies like Google have realised that diverse investments and markets make them more viable over the longer term and provide for more profit options. Hopefully, other companies will begin to think outside of the box and help make America the global alternative energy leader!” [3]

Google's Offshore Wind Plans {4}

In my 2010 blog post I predicted that given Google’s investment in the offshore wind energy sector their “push might be what the off-shore wind movement needs to spur quicker turnaround” [3]. On December 20th, 2011 Reuters reported that the U.S. government will decide in the next few months whether or not to approve Google’s offshore win project while also pledging “that the project would not face the bureaucratic delays that plagued previous offshore renewable energy projects”  [5] . Furthermore, Google’s investment into the off-shore wind market is continuing with a push into the European market [6]. All signs point to success with Google’s bet in offshore wind. The Obama administration’s push towards jump-starting American-made renewable energy has cleared the regulatory roadblocks for Google and Google’s continued investment into the offshore wind market has spurred additional investment by other companies [7]. It appears that it is finally time to being the renewable energy revolution.

Offshore Wind {8}

[1]- http://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/green-tech/wind/google-gambles-on-offshore-wind/?utm_source=techalert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=110410  (podcast)

[2] – http://renewableprojects.com/tag/wind-farm

[3]- http://webberenergyugs.blogspot.com/2010/11/google-gambles-on-offshore-wind.html#comment-form

[4]- http://cleantechnica.com/2010/10/12/google-builds-first-us-off-shore-superhighway-for-clean-energy/

[5]- http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/20/us-usa-offshore-wind-idUSTRE7BJ1GS20111220

[6]- https://www.google.com/calendar/render?eid=bXQzZXB2ZXQ0bmZkNmlhdWFvamd1NjI1Y3Mgb2ZmaWNlQHJlLWRhdGFiYXNlLmNvbQ&pli=1&sf=true&output=xml

[7]- http://www.ecogeek.org/wind-power/3685-atlantic-city-offshore-wind-farm-could-start-const

[8]- http://greenenergyreporter.com/renewables/wind/google-backs-crucial-offshore-wind-infrastructure-project/

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Google’s Gamble On Offshore Wind Pays Off

  1. shima26

    The primary goal that Google is pursuing in this project is in all likelihood the ability to power its massive data centers, which are primarily located in east coast or mid-west:

    http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/locations/index.html

    and Google is seeking efficient and renewable resources of power for future to feed these centers (and thus the wind farms are to be constructed in east coast) . Although the efficiency of the electricity obtained by wind power and its being economical is debatable, the point I want to raise here is not related to this aspect. My question is are the location and infrastructures of this project optimized solely with respect to Google’s benefit (i.e. feeding the data centers) or has public benefit been also considered ? If it was solely for extracting electricity from wind power in the most efficient way, wouldn’t other locations be more appropriate for such farm winds? If U.S legislators are to allow (or have already allowed) a company to have monopoly in wind power electricity market in near future, shouldn’t public benefit be the primary concern, and not the company’s most direct profit?

    • shredtown

      This is kind of in response to shima’s post above. According to this link, Google’s data centers use roughly 200 MW:

      http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2011/08/01/report-google-uses-about-900000-servers/

      Even if that number is inaccurate, it’s hard to believe their data centers would consume the full 6 gigawatt capacity from their transmission lines. Therefore, they can easily sell the excess power to the local communities. Why should Google invest in something solely for public benefit? The government is responsible for that, not Google.

      As far as it being a monopoly… that only comes from Google being a pioneer in this venture. This could easily open up the legislation for any other company that would be interested in offshore wind power, but it’s up to them decide if it is worth the cost.

  2. The article mentions the Obama administration trying to push renewable energy projects, like this one, over the regulatory roadblocks that have plagued them for years. Unfortunately, I don’t think large-scale, offshore wind projects (large enough to make a measurable contribution to overall energy produced in the US) will come to fruition anytime soon because they face some unique and unusual roadblocks.

    I think one of the main issues will be the sheer number of wind turbines required to harness enough energy. Using the wind farm off the Thanet coast in England as a reference

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Adam-Smith-Institute-Blog/2010/1004/Offshore-wind-farms-How-much-is-renewable-energy-worth

    each wind turbine is rated for 3 MW. This means the US would require thousands of these turbines to meet our power needs. A couple dozen, or even a few hundred turbines might not be a big deal. However, thousands of them creating mazes for boats/ships to navigate, and disturbing the visual horizon will be something that policy makers argue for a long time about if they should allow. After all, would you want to go on a beach vacation and watch the sun set on the horizon behind the wind turbines?

  3. claudedebussy7

    With the exception of the last sentence of this passage, I believe that all of the information and arguments presented in this entry are feasible. Google has become somewhat of a name brand when it comes to entering a new market and quickly accelerating the top (email, search algorithms, finance, online storage), so it is obvious that Google has great potential to excel in driving a wind energy market. I highly question that this marketing will bring forth a renewable energy revolution.

    Like all other industries, competing is about making money. Unless a successful energy monopoly is established, the reliability of wind energy will keep consumers from fully investing their energy needs into that company. In fact, Texas currently houses the most wind capacity in the United States [1] with over 2,000 turbines [2]; however, that wind capacity only contributes to a small part of the electricity generation in the state [3] (8.47% of the net electricity generation is from renewable sources). Texas certainly isn’t short on land or coastal area. The regulatory roadblocks and other bureaucratic obstacles in the way of wind power investment are caused by wind power’s habit of falling short and behaving inconsistently in power supply [4], and that lack of reliability has a negative impact on the competition level in a hypothetical wind energy market.

    Admittedly, wind power’s contribution is anything but negligible. The wind market will definitely develop more easily with Google’s initiative and reputation, and any industry that invests in wind will more than likely rely on it for reserves instead of a primary supply. I doubt the prospect of Google forming a monopoly, because history has shown that industries will attempt to avoid monopolies by investing in their own knockoffs of the same “product”, one example of which is hybrid cars. Several different vehicle manufacturing companies (Toyota, Honda, Audi, etc) have contributed to hybrid car technology in order to benefit themselves, not so that they could solicit profits from another company [5].

    Google’s wind energy gamble will certainly serve some common good by driving production towards wind energy investments, but they will not secure a monopoly and they will not incite a renewable energy revolution.

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