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Google Campus to Become Solar-powered 394

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the off-the-grid dept.
prostoalex writes "Reuters is reporting that Google is equipping its headquarters with a solar panel 'capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 1,000 California homes.' This will make Google's Mountain View campus the largest solar-powered office complex in the United States."
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Google Campus to Become Solar-powered

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:24AM (#16464037)
    I can only google stuff when the sun is shining in Mountain View?
  • by rm999 (775449) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:24AM (#16464039)
    "A Google executive said the company will rely on solar power to supply nearly a third of the electricity consumed by office workers at its roughly one-million-square-foot headquarters. This does not include power consumed by data centers that power many of Google's Web services worldwide, he said."

    That's great, I am really proud of them for using an alternative energy source (especially in such a sunny area) but most of their energy usage is those data centers and servers, not their employees. They purposefully did not give a % of total energy saved because it probably would have been on the order of 0.1-5%, which would have revealed the ridiculous amount of energy they actually use.
    • by misleb (129952) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:39AM (#16464173)
      Still, 1.6 Megawatts is impressive... for solar power.

      -matthew
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by porkThreeWays (895269)
      Yes, but 1.6 megawatts is no small feat.

      Also, it's like people who drive hybrid cars. True, the sum of all hybrid cars have little effect on the total problems of pollution and foreign oil. However, sometimes as a human you say "I don't want to be a part of the problem. I may not be able to change others' minds, but at least I'm not contributing to the worlds problems".

      And it's google so I'm sure they'll put a bunch of engineers on the problem and come up with a solution no one's ever thought of. Like
  • by SocialEngineer (673690) <{invertedpanda} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:24AM (#16464041) Homepage

    I wonder how easy the transition will be for them to leave Linux behind in favor of a sun [sun.com] powered setup.

    Oh yes. I went there.

  • Just one Solar panel? What if it breaks? Will they need to replace the whole thing?
    • by SirSlud (67381) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:27AM (#16464083) Homepage
      They'll all show up at your door one day and go, "Wern't you the guy who dropped incredible internet science at slashdot? Our one single panel broke, and we're out a vast amount of money. Apparently, you're the man who will lead us into the next generation of solar powered offices."
    • by gbobeck (926553) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:29AM (#16464089) Homepage Journal
      What if it breaks?

      Two words: Duct Tape.
      • by sethstorm (512897) * on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:09AM (#16464375) Homepage
        Two words: Duct Tape.

        Would that be to fix it or to shut up the person who revealed the problem?
      • by sniepre (517796) <sniepre@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:30AM (#16464479) Homepage
        Remember: There are only two tools in life. WD-40, for when something doesn't move, and should, and Duct Tape, for when something is moving and it shouldn't.
        • by flyingsquid (813711) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:41AM (#16464551)
          Remember: There are only two tools in life. WD-40, for when something doesn't move, and should, and Duct Tape, for when something is moving and it shouldn't.

          So does the universe explode if you spray duct tape with WD-40?

          • by gbobeck (926553) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:01AM (#16464615) Homepage Journal
            Lets conduct an experiment and investigate what will happen if duct tape is sprayed with WD-40.

            But, before we use any power tools, let's take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these -- safety glasses and a funny hat.

            I have with me a brand new roll of duct tape, and a fresh can of WD-40. Next to me is my trusty lab assistant, Timmy, who will be assiting in this experiment.

            I am now going to rip a piece of duct tape approximately six inches long off of the roll and have Timmy hold it.

            (I rip tape and hand it to Timmy)

            Ok, Timmy, hold the tape tight, I am going to commence spraying the tape.

            (I spray the tape)

            Ok, Timmy... continue to hold it as we observe what happens.

            (wait 5 seconds)

            Timmy has told me it is starting to shake and do funny things...

            OMG! A black hole has opened where the tape was. Timmy, hold on to it... this is the crucial moment...

            Uh, oh! I think we are going to need another Timmy! It looks like Timmy was consumed by the black hole.

            Luckily, I was prepaired for this. I will now throw into the black hole a few New Kids on the Block tapes and a copy of the movie Hobgobblins. This should cause the blackhole to enter "terminal suckage phase" and end its existance.

            (I throw in the NKotB tapes and the copy of Hobgobblins. The black hole immediately ceases to be)

            Well, it looks like yet another experiment has occured.

            Tune in next week when I will show everyone how to build a perpetual energy generator using a cat and a slice of buttered toast.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Phroggy (441) *
            I take it you've never seen this page [octanecreative.com]?
  • It's nice to see Google doing something about ensuring some part of the power they use is from renewable sources. Now if only they could do this with their data centers.
  • How big is it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jorghis (1000092) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:30AM (#16464099)
    The article didnt say anything about its physical size. I wonder how much space they would have to consume to supply that much power.

    The google campus doesnt have that many buildings, I have this weird image in my mind of all their buildings completely covered by solar panels.
  • Yawn! (Score:3, Informative)

    by J. T. MacLeod (111094) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:31AM (#16464109)
    Call me when they hit 1.21 gigawatts!

    OK, to be serious, this is a wonderful leap. Granted, it took a company as flush with cash and as well organized as Google to make the switch, but even if they're much better suited to do so, they can at least be an example to strive for.
    • by misleb (129952)
      OK, to be serious, this is a wonderful leap. Granted, it took a company as flush with cash and as well organized as Google to make the switch, but even if they're much better suited to do so, they can at least be an example to strive for.


      You do realize that they are probably losing money on this in exchange for the publicity, don't you?

      -matthew
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Don_dumb (927108)
        You do realize how short sighted that economic view is, dont you?

        How expensive does oil/coal etc have to get before this saves money? In the short term this may cost money, but it does after all provide a renewable and free resource.
        It is just like double glazed windows, for the first few years the total cost is greater, but you are always saving money and after some years the saving has outweighed the cost of replacing the windows. This break even comes much sooner when you factor in the always increasing
        • by ZorbaTHut (126196)
          This would be more true if solar panels lasted longer, but sadly they slowly degenerate over time. I believe replacement is suggested after 25 years, at which point they have - assuming present energy prices - rarely paid for themselves. They might pay for themselves if electrical power gets more expensive.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tehdaemon (753808)
            "I believe replacement is suggested after 25 years"

            No, that is just when the warranty runs out. Since it has only been 52 years since the modern Si photovoltaic cell was invented, the life of solar cells is not really known. The oldest working communications satellite appears to be ATS-3 (from a quick google search) and is 39 years old. - so they can work at least that long.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by julesh (229690)
            This would be more true if solar panels lasted longer, but sadly they slowly degenerate over time. I believe replacement is suggested after 25 years, at which point they have - assuming present energy prices - rarely paid for themselves.

            1. Replacement is suggested after 25 years, if (and only if) space is at a premium. Over the lifetime, output drops off slowly. After 25 years, output is typically around 85-90% of the original output. If you have the space for it, you just add more panels to make up for
        • by misleb (129952)

          You do realize how short sighted that economic view is, dont you?

          What view? I was only making sure you were aware that this move by Google probably wasn't a great investment beyond the publicity they'd get for it. It makes me wonder if perhaps they have gone a little too far. I mean, the public has a short attention span. Google only going to be be able to play this (expensive) card so many times.

          How expensive does oil/coal etc have to get before this saves money?

          Google is saving money on power by buildi

  • I wonder if Google's using products from Nanosolar? From what I can recall, Google and Nanosolar share at least one Board of Director/Investor.

    And yes, I'm too lazy to google for the facts, it's 10pm for me and I'm about to have dinner.

  • by c_forq (924234)
    I had JUST read this on Google's blog, and when I clicked back to Slashdot, boom: deja vu on the top of the front page (and not from a dupe! :P). Google blog article [blogspot.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PygmySurfer (442860)
      I had JUST read this on Google's blog, and when I clicked back to Slashdot, boom: deja vu on the top of the front page (and not from a dupe! :P).

      This is obviously a sign that you should submit it, and it'll make the front page tomorrow! :)
  • you know they'll have to have one....

    Ballmer unleashed....yes, a campus run on fear
  • Hours (Score:5, Funny)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:40AM (#16464179)
    Well, I guess that's one way to keep people from working late...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      Well, I guess that's one way to keep people from working late...

            Nawww, at night they just turn the lights on to power the solar ...oh, wait!
  • Reuters is reporting that Google is equipping its headquarters with a solar panel 'capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity

    This is clearly the result of giving a cabal of nerds 130 billion dollars. Also, it's merely an order of magnitude short of the 1.21 gigawatts necessary for time travel.
    • by Brickwall (985910)
      Reuters is reporting that Google is equipping its headquarters with a solar panel 'capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity

      This is clearly the result of giving a cabal of nerds 130 billion dollars. Also, it's merely an order of magnitude short of the 1.21 gigawatts necessary for time travel.

      Nice arithmetic. Try three orders of magnitude. Please surrender your nerd credentials as you exit.

      • Nice arithmetic. Try three orders of magnitude. Please surrender your nerd credentials as you exit.

        I'll see to that. We'll see how silly you look when I use my delorean to go back in time and prevent myself from making that error...
  • Now (Score:3, Funny)

    by Revenge_of_Solver_Ta (862178) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:42AM (#16464193) Homepage
    "This Search Powered By The Sun" -Now with 1/3 Less Evil?
  • by Salvance (1014001) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:42AM (#16464195) Homepage Journal
    Think there's any chance Google would start installing solar panels on their data centers? This would be a HUGE gesture of enviro-friendly computing, even if it did cost them a bundle. It would certainly get other data centers and large power consumers (like yahoo and microsoft) to consider following suit. Based on estimates posted at Wikipedia, they consume 20MW of power for their 450,000+ servers (which actually seems really low - only 50W per server?).

    Assuming it's more like 80MW of power they consume (equivalent to ~60K homes), I wonder if there'd even be enough high quality solar panels to offset a majority of this power consumption? I guess it makes more sense for them to start building wind farms near their out-of-the-way GooglePlexes. Some 5MW wind turbines are being tested today - hmmm ... let's see, 16 wind turbines vs. 150,000 solar panels ...

    BTW: here's a link to a more detailed article on the subject: SF Gate - Google sets sight on solar [sfgate.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by slack-fu (940017)
      what they should do, is use the heat the data centers produce to produce steam, to run a generator, to make electricity, to run the datacenter, to generate heat...
    • by Peden (753161)
      Thats also assuming that said wind turbines produces electricity at that rate, and that no loss occurs. Wind and solar power is great and all, but if its not economically viable, then its just not ready for the big market yet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It would certainly get other data centers and large power consumers (like yahoo and microsoft) to consider following suit

      Solar power is extremely expensive, and power is generally the single largest cost in operating a data center (bandwidth, server leases, and even the cost of A-grade real estate in an urban core like New York City are small compared to power costs). Real world data center managers are interested in (1) more reliable power (no sags, no blackouts, no brownouts) (2) less expensive power. Emp
  • Payback? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nick9000 (960604) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:55AM (#16464281)
    I wonder what the energy payback period is expected to be? I've heard up to thirty years for solar panels, which has always put me off because I would guess in 5-10 years there will be improvements in the amount of energy a panel can produce.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      For a small installation in Colorado, it is on the order of 5 years or less (using the energy by-back from Excell ). Considering that they are getting more support from Ca. state and their energy costs are higher and their panel costs will be lower, I would guess that the payoff will certainly be less than ours. Without assistance, then it is a matter of what the local energy company will pay for it. Some are trying to discourage energy so are not buying it back. Then and only then is the payback 30 years.
  • Cost Savings.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by PhaxMohdem (809276)
    I wonder how much this thing will cost to deploy, and if it will be able to pay for itself in energy savings after a while. I'm no expert on solar power at all, but some basic math seems to show that a 1.6 Megawatt system with 8 hours of sunlight per day would save somewhere around $900 USD per day in energy costs (Assuming 7 cents per KWh... I'm really not sure what the rates are out in Cali.) Seems like it would likely take quite a while to pay itself off at that rate...
    • by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:01AM (#16464613)
      Cost Savings

      Cost savings, cost savings, cost saving... This is why humanity's lifespan as we know it will be much shorter than it could've been. It should not be just about the money and cost saving, but about nature saving, resource saving, human saving.

      Any company who deploys renewable energy sources as a partial or total replacement, gets my support.

      And, this news is proof for one more thing: geeks should have more money, they can do the coolest things.
       
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by julesh (229690)
        It should not be just about the money and cost saving, but about nature saving, resource saving, human saving.

        Cost is often a reasonably good indicator of resource requirements. Scarce resources put costs up while common ones drive it down.
  • by nephridium (928664) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:05AM (#16464349)
    Use of solar panels goes way back [radford.edu]. I still can't believe Ronald Reagan took down those panels that Carter installed on the White House as well as axing the solar research program - weakass politics.. :(
  • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:05AM (#16464353) Journal
    Did we cross the threshold of solar panel arrays giving off more power before the MTBF than it takes to create them? If not then this is just showing off, or maybe more simply some exeutive being missguided. Its just google being wastfull.
    It happens when your rich, I suppose.
  • What this takes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:55AM (#16464589) Homepage

    OK. One square meter of solar panel is typically good for 130 watts at peak, but only about 655 watt hours per day, or 27 watts averaged over 24 hours. In other words, the average power is about 20% of the peak. So, to get 1.6 megawatts average power, you need about 60,000 square meters of panel, or an area 245 meters square. This is about two football fields of area, or three Wal-Mart Supercenter roofs.

    A typical price for a good solar panel today is about $1000 for 160 watts peak. So to get 1.6 * 5 = 8 megawatts peak power, you need 50,000 of those panels, or about $50 million worth of panels. Batteries, inverters, and installation extra. (I suspect that Google is talking about 1.6MW of peak capacity, but that's a phony number to compare to other energy sources that can run 24 hours a day.)

    There are already data centers that draw 30 megawatts continuous. That would take about a billion dollars worth of solar panels to power.

    And by power plant standards, 30MW is dinky. Commercial power plants today run around a gigawatt.

  • Having realised that their secret base is now visible from the air both in their own carefully controlled Google Earth, and in competitor's products, the non-evil geniuses plan to put a huge solar reflector up that can dazzle satellites and helicopters. All that remains is thinking of a plausible cover story...
  • by cralewyth (934970)
    Why don't they just hire the russians to build them a big floating nuclear plant?
  • I would rather see them spend the money on super capcitors either in buying them to lower their costs or in research. As it is, their are plenty of buyers of the production. It is energy storage that needs to be lowered.
    • Re:Great! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sillybilly (668960)
      I was gonna say just that, that energy storage is the bigger issue than production, especially with wind and solar power, that are intermittent, though solar delivers energy while the people are at work, and when it gets dark, people go home, but still, you need keep the buidlings lit in the dark, or do you? Anyway, I think their solar panels will just be grid-tied, and not much local storage will be implemented, besides some backup power supplies and, guess what, generators that burn gas. And by the way I
  • by nigham (792777) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:47AM (#16464821) Homepage
    A major problem cited with developing nations is lack of infrastructure - a large part of which is power. By validating and making use of such technology common, it would be far easier to set up shop outside the US.
  • Massive computer system? Check.
    Independent network? Check-ish.
    Solar powered? Check.
    Super-human AI. ????

    ALL HAIL OMNI-SUPER-GOOGLE-MIND-BRAIN!
  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @05:39AM (#16465757) Journal
    So 1 home needs 1.6kW of electricity?

    Don't people in California have airconditioning?

    The smallest contract my electricity company (EDF) will sell is 3kW, and nobody uses that 'cos your main circuit breaker would blow if you turned on a couple of electric heaters and a microwave.

    As far as I can remember I've got an 18kW contract, so this thing would be able to power around 100 people like me.

    (Personaly I'll stick with my nice PWR thankyou).

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