Google’s Green Spending Spree: How it chooses

Google’s Green Spending Spree: How it chooses

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Google is on a green spending spree. By July 2011 it had invested over $700 M in clean energy. Today the figure is over $850 M and set to grow (approaching $1 B as at August 2012). Fresh Dialogues asked Google: How does it choose green startups and projects?

Google’s Parag Chokshi sheds some light on the company’s decision making.  “We invest in projects other investors might not invest in…we look for innovative technologies or the capacity for transformation in the sector.”

He’s talking about large solar power tower projects, like BrightSource’s Ivanpah project in California’s Mojave Desert to which Google contributed $168 M; and one of the world’s largest wind farms, Alta Wind Energy Center, also in the Mojave Desert where Google invested $55 M.

In June this year, Google demonstrated its game-changing strategy by  investing in SolarCity. This time it was a $280 M investment, to create a fund enabling the solar company to make residential rooftop installations more affordable (often eliminating the upfront cost for homeowners).

“Google is setting an example that other leading American companies can follow,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. “The largest 200 corporations in the U.S. have more than $1 trillion in cash on their balance sheets. Investments in solar energy generate returns for corporate investors, offer cost savings for homeowners, create new local jobs…and protect the environment.”

Despite the departure of Google’s Green Czar – Bill Weihl – this week, Parag Chokshi confirms that “we have a strong team and our work will continue. ..we actually have several executives that work on our green initiatives … other executives include Rick Needham, who has led and oversees our $850M in clean energy investments; and Urs Hoelzle, who oversees our entire infrastructure and has spearheaded our energy efficiency work.”

This video was recorded at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View CA on July 8, 2011.

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