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Home arrow Blog arrow 10/17/06-Now Google sets sights on "solar" system

10/17/06-Now Google sets sights on "solar" system PDF Print E-mail
Written by David R. Baker   
Tuesday, 17 October 2006
All it's searching for this time is a 1.6-megawatt solar power source that is simply out of this world
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Google Inc. will mount solar panels on the rooftops and parking lots of its Mountain View headquarters, in what could be the largest such installation in the United States.

The project, announced Monday at the opening of this week's solar industry expo in San Jose, will generate 1.6 megawatts of electricity when finished in the spring.

That's enough to light 1,200 homes. It won't, however, meet all of Google's needs. The Internet search engine will still need to buy 70 percent of the power consumed at the "Googleplex," the company's 1 million-square-foot headquarters.

Google's solar system will, however, be far larger than most. Many businesses have been slapping solar panels on their facilities as a way to help chip away at high energy costs. But those systems rarely top 1 megawatt.

The array at San Francisco's Moscone Center, for example, can generate 675 kilowatts. Panels installed at FedEx's Oakland airport hub provide about 904 kilowatts.

EI Solutions, which designed the Google solar project, says it will be the largest corporate installation in the United States. Google, for its part, sees the project as one more way to lessen the company's impact on the environment. David Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate, likened the project to the company's shuttle bus service for employees, which carries about 1,000 people per day.

"I like to think of this as the tip of the iceberg," he said. "If we can dispel the myth that you can't be green and be profitable, that would be great."

Both Google and EI Solutions declined to say how much the project would cost. Starting in November, 9,212 solar panels built by Sharp Electronics will be installed on roofs and carports at the Google headquarters. By cutting the amount of electricity Google must buy off the state's grid, the panels should pay for themselves in five to 10 years, Radcliffe said.

Google's announcement was perhaps the most eye-catching to emerge Monday from the start of Solar Power 2006, the industry's largest annual gathering. Other companies also seized the opportunity to trumpet their latest achievements, in the time-honored tradition of tech expo one-upmanship.

SunPower Corp., a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp., unveiled panels that can convert sunlight to electricity more efficiently than older models, generating more power with less surface area.

Fat Spaniel Technologies of San Jose reported that its system for monitoring the performance and output of solar systems in real time will be tested in Canada, Florida and Missouri.

The expo serves as a way for established companies and startups alike to attract attention, customers and venture capital. Some of the companies make solar panels that can track the movement of the sun or use less silicon than their competitors. Others are developing "thin-film" solar cells, made of light, flexible materials. The expo will continue through Friday at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

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