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Job ads show Google wading deeper in clean energy

Google has invested significant money and employee time in clean-energy technologies over the past few years but recent job openings point to stepped-up efforts to build its own products.

There are currently five renewable-energy engineer job openings listed on Google’s job site, including a top manager position at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters that hints at Google’s bigger ambitions.

The “head of renewable energy engineering” will lead a research and development team within Google to lower the cost of renewable energy. “As the engineering leader of Google’s clean energy initiative, you will be responsible for building a team of top technologists to develop disruptive new technologies that dramatically lower the cost of renewable electricity – with the goal of making renewable energy cheaper than coal within a few years,” according to the job posting.

The other job openings specify skills in designing and prototyping utility-scale renewable-energy systems. Google is seeking people able to assess and create different renewable-energy technologies with the potential to be cheaper than coal-generated electricity, including solar, wind, enhanced geothermal, and other “breakthrough technologies,” according to a listing. Another job is geared at making Google’s operations more sustainable, such as reducing its energy use and achieving the corporate goal of carbon neutrality.

Google first launched its renewable energy cheaper than coal initiative in 2007. The company invested in a few start-ups and took a number of measures to improve the efficiency of its operations. In the past several months, though, Google has sped up its activity in renewable energy.

In April, its Google Energy subsidiary invested directly in a wind farm in Oklahoma located near a planned Google data center. Altogether, Google has also invested more than $400 million in renewable energy, including a large wind farm in Oregon and a large solar project in California earlier this year.

Yesterday, it announced that it is expanding to 450 electric-vehicle charging stations on its campuses, acting as a corporate customer to advance electric-vehicle technology.

Through its philanthropy Google.org, Google invested in start-ups, including high-wind company Makani Power, enhanced geothermal companies, and solar company BrightSource Energy, which filed to go public earlier this year. The company also developed PowerMeter, a home energy monitoring Web application, the only energy-related product Google has released.

In 2010, Google’s green-energy czar Bill Weihl said that engineers had built a prototype of a sun-tracking mirror called a heliostat which could lower the cost of solar energy. Weihl also told Reuters that Google was discouraged in the amount of money going into early-stage renewable-energy technologies.

By expanding its internal research and development around clean energy, Google appears to be stepping up its commitment to develop more technologies internally.

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Investors Keen to Be Part of India’s Green Growth

NEW DELHI — India has made it into the A-list of global investors in renewable energy, a recognition of the country’s proactive government energy program, natural resources and mushrooming swathe of entrepreneurs.

India ranked as the third favored destination with 35% of the respondents saying they would invest in India, behind the U.S., which was targeted by 53% of the respondents, and China (38%), according to a report, called Green Power 2011: The KPMG Reneweable Energy M&A Report,” released Wednesday by KPMG that is based on a survey of 500 executives active in the renewable energy arena globally.

Adeel Halim/Bloomberg NewsDismantled windmills lie on the ground at a wind farm in Kammalapatti in India, April 11.

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For instance, India’s wind-energy companies, which are in the midst of a hectic pace of development, have attracted more than $586 million of project financing this quarter. This already is 63% of the $934 million raised in all of 2010.

“The Indian market has become increasingly dynamic in recent years as a result of strong natural resources, greater accommodation to international investment compared with China and a variety of government incentives,” the report said.

While Indian banks continue to be the main source of funding, international lenders are taking note. HSBC and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. provided $110 million debt project financing in March for a wind farm in the western state of Gujarat.

The pace of growth and investments in India is part of a worldwide trend. Deal activity among renewable energy companies globally surged 70% in 2010, and continues to maintain this hectic clip in the first quarter, according to the report.

In the first quarter, 141 transactions worth $11.2 billion were signed, while last year, an average of 96 deals worth $5.5 billion were announced in each quarter.

“All in all, 2011 looks set to be another buoyant year,” the report said, but added a caveat that the first quarter data doesn’t reflect the impact of the tsunami in Japan in March.

The survey data also revealed that investors preferred to invest locally rather than across borders. But nearly 60% of Asia-Pacific acquirers said they are targeting India or China. India also features as one of the top three destinations for solar energy companies along with the U.S. and Italy.

“With India it is a combination of factors,” said Siobhan Smyth, head of renewables at HSBC, who was interviewed as part of the survey.

“There is a portfolio standard on a state-by-state basis. Developers have the ability to get [public-private agreementss due to utility obligations. Then there are the generation-based incentive and tax-depreciation incentives. You are looking at 15% to 20% returns depending on the state you look at and the type of assets you are buying.”

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CLEAN ENERGY FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT – Joint India-U.S. Research

The Indian and U.S. governments have announced a funding opportunity of $50 million for joint research and development (R&D) in three critical fields:

The Indian and U.S. governments are contributing $50 million across the three fields, over five years, to fund transformative, cutting-edge clean energy solutions. Another $50 million is expected in matching funds from
participating entities, raising the total level of expected funding to $100 million. Leading researchers and scientists in both the United States and India are encouraged you to apply.

The Application deadline is August 16, 2011.

* Grant Information*

Details of the funding opportunity, including application guidelines, materials, instructions, cost-sharing, teaming arrangements etc. are available on the websites of the coordinating U.S. and Indian agencies – the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) (http://www.pi.energy.gov/159.htm and
http://www.indousstf.org/JCERDC.html). DOE and IUSSTF are the official contact for the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center (JCERDC) – the bilateral mechanism established to facilitate this research and any activities needed to ensure implementation.

The funding opportunity is open to joint teams (consortia) of participants from India and the U.S. An extremely wide variety of applicants are encouraged to partner: individual scientists/engineers, technical specialists, academic experts/academic institutions and universities, national laboratories, private corporations including clean-tech startups,
energy entrepreneurs, banks/financial institutions and others.

* * *
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with our partners the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) and the Council on Energy,Environment and Water (CEEW) share the objective of making this funding opportunity a success, and are working to ensure that the highest caliber of talent in both countries is drawn into the process. We will be disseminating information we find relevant and would be happy to connect you with others in our networks (in both India and the U.S.) who are interested in exploring this funding opportunity. If for any reason you are unable to directly contact the U.S. and India secretariats regarding your queries and interest,

please feel free to reach out to us at (sreddy@nrdc.org or rkhosla@nrdc.org) since we will have a series of discussions to encourage this exciting collaborative opportunity.

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U.S., India announce funding for clean energy research and development

Fulfilling an important step of the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh

last November, India and the U.S. have announced funding commitments of 25 million dollars each to support the U.S.-India Joint Clean Energyesearch and Development Center (JCERDC).

According to U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer, “This is the first collaborative research effort of its kind, where Indian and U.S. researchers will be jointly selected. It elevates the U.S.-India clean energy cooperation to a new level and is a testament to the strength of our continued strategic partnership. We look forward to closer cooperation on clean energy between the technical experts of our two knowledge societies, and sharing the benefits of the collaborative research.”

The United States and India will provide awards in three priority areas: biofuels, building energy efficiency, and solar energy. These awards will support joint consortia of U.S. and India private sector companies, non-governmental organizations, research labs, or other organizations. Selected consortia will leverage government resources by contributing matching funding, totaling an additional 50 million dollars.

The JCERDC will be located in existing facilities in both countries.

Applications are due by August 16, 2011, with selections expected later this fall.

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