Google’s Search for Green

by Sam Leppanen

The search engine giant uses technology to move toward sustainability.

Many of us use Google as the tool of choice for searching the Internet. Google has added a new search that will help the company become carbon neutral by the end of 2007 and shore up environmental innovation that could ultimately benefit everyone.

Google plans to purchase carbon offsets by investing in projects such as capturing and burning methane, a greenhouse gas produced from animal waste with 20 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, at Mexican and Brazilian farms. “Our funding makes it possible for anaerobic digesters to be installed, which capture and flare the biogas produced while simultaneously improving local air quality and reducing land and water contamination,” the company said. Google also has several other environmental programs and initiatives in place.

In June, Google announced that it would activate solar panels covering the roofs of its corporate offices. The company teamed up with EI Solutions to install Sharp Electronic solar panels on the rooftops of its Googleplex along with newly constructed carports in existing parking lots, making it the largest solar installation on a corporate campus in the U.S. These panels will supply about one-third of the energy for the building, and the panels will produce 1.6 megawatts of energy, or enough to supply 1,000 average California homes. The project began in October 2006 using 9,212 solar panels, and Google said it is committed to creating an additional 50 megawatts of renewable energy by 2012.

A portion of the solar energy produced will be used to power plug-in vehicles. In this latest initiative, Google teamed up with RechargeIT, a company aiming to reduce emissions and oil dependence that includes several elements designed to advance plug-in development and commercialization. Google converted six hybrid vehicles into plug-ins that can drive in all-electric mode for 30 miles before utilizing the gas engine. The conversion of four Toyota Prius and two Ford Escape vehicles also includes a planned vehicle-sharing program with 100 plug-in vehicles for employees to use to run errands during their workday. As part of this initiative, Google also pledged to donate $10 million in grants to fund the development, adoption and commercialization of plug-ins, fully-electric cars and related vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.

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