Google’s blog has a post describing their new investment in BrightSource Energy and linking to lots of background information on their renewable investments. BrightSource does large-scale solar.
This is part of Google’s RE < C initiative, through which they channel their investments with an objective of making renewable energy cheaper than coal-fueled energy. Their FAQ gets at the question of why Google would be doing this:
This initiative is not just about creating clean, affordable electricity for Google – though we are keenly interested in making our business as environmentally sustainable as possible. If successful, this effort would likely provide a path to replacing a substantial portion of the world’s electricity needs with renewable energy sources. We want to do our part, but that won’t be enough alone to thwart climate change; we need a worldwide green electricity revolution to do that.
OK, fine. But what’s the return to Google? They clearly don’t see it as a short-run bottom-line reduction in their own energy costs. So what’s motivating it? Brand capital and reputation capital? I have my ideas, but I would like to hear yours.