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Google scraps green tech fund in “spring cleaning” frenzy

Thursday, 24 November 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
The green technology industry has been dealt a blow after Google announced its plan to shut down green tech investment fund RE<C, along with a host of other of its other initiatives.

 

RE<C, which stands for Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal, was announced in 2007 by Google’s philanthropy arm Google.org.

 

The initiative was developed in an effort to drive down the cost of renewable energy, with an RE<C engineering team focused on researching improvements to solar power technology.

 

The company made several major investments, including a $10 million equity investment in Brightsource Energy, in addition to funding for geothermal drilling company Potter Drilling.

 

This funding helped sponsor research used to develop the first geothermal map of the United States.

 

Google also poured $168 million into the world’s largest tower project, constructed by Brightsource, set for completion in 2013. It will generate 392 megawatts of clean solar energy.

 

When the initiative was announced in 2007, Google said it expected to spend “tens of millions on research and development, and related investments in renewable energy”.

 

It also expected to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns”.

 

But in a recent blog post, titled “More spring cleaning out of season”, Google said RE<C will be scrapped, claiming other organisations are “better positioned” to pursue such research.

 

“We’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts,” Google Fellow Urs Hölzle wrote.

 

“We will continue our work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy, including our on-campus efforts… and investing more than $850 million in renewable energy technologies.”

 

In addition to RE<C, Google announced the shutdown of:

 

  • Google Bookmarks Lists, which is an experimental feature for sharing bookmarks and collaborating with friends, will end on December 19.
  • Google Friend Connect, which allows webmasters to add social features to their sites by embedding snippets of code, will be retired for all non-blogger sites on March 1, 2012.
  • Google Gears. “In March, we said goodbye to the Gears browser extension for creating offline web applications and stopped supporting new browsers,” Google wrote.

    “On December 1, 2011, Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will stop working across all browsers, and later in December Gears will no longer be available for download.”
  • Google Search Timeline. “We’re removing this graph of historical results for a query,” Google continued.

    “Users will be able to restrict any search to particular time periods using the refinement tools on the left-hand side of the search page.”
  • Google Wave. As of January 31, 2012, Wave will become read-only and users won’t be able to create new ones. On April 30, it will be turned off completely.
  • Knol, which helps improve web content by enabling experts to collaborate on in-depth articles, will not be viewable from May 1, 2012, and will be inaccessible from October 1.