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Google Scraps Renewable Energy Initiative

With a small mention on its blog, Google officially scrapped a project, which sought to drive down the cost of renewable energy.

"At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So 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 said on its official blog.

CNet reportsthat this move is part of Google's broader initiative to move away from the energy sector. CNet reports on what the "Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal" (RE<C) initiative did for the renewable energy sector:

"As part of the same initiative, Google also invested in solar, wind, and geothermal start-ups, two of which--eSolar and BrightSource Energy--have grown substantially and have solar technology working in the field. It's also put some $850 million in renewable energy projects and improved the efficiency of its data centers.

"Those investments should have a lasting effect. But the broader impact of Google's jump into energy in 2007 was to help shape the national discussion on energy.

"As a high profile company known for its technical savvy, Google explicitly made the case that technology development was simply happening too slowly for renewable energy to compete with coal on price. It had the mindset and resources to show others that technical innovation can't be left to stodgy utilities or oil-and-gas companies. In that regard, Google helped move the ball forward."

ArsTechnica reportsthat Google was most interested in technology that centered around mirrors that track the sun and help power "a solar-driven hot air turbine called a Brayton engine."

But the industry as a whole has moved on to more advanced photovoltaic systems. "So although RE < C wasn't misguided," concludes ArsTechnica, "its cancellation isn't going to have a discernible impact on the renewable energy field, since companies that specialize in this field were outperforming it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.