This past week has been a dream come true for any engineer, architect, designer, or group working towards developing new sources of alternative energy. Two monumental events occurred that could potentially change the careers of many, and the source of our energy sooner than we thought.
On Tuesday November 27 Google publicly announced the terms of a new initiative called RE<C (Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal). Google will invest hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development by hiring engineers and energy experts to lead R&D work. This research will begin with solar thermal technology, geothermal systems, and wind power technologies. They also plan to spend more hundreds of millions in breakthrough renewable energy projects, which will generate positive returns.
The goal is to provide significant enough investment dollars to speed up the development of these promising technologies. “Lots of groups are doing great work trying to produce inexpensive renewable energy. We want to add something that moves these efforts toward even cheaper technologies a bit more quickly. Usual investment criteria may not deliver the super low-cost, clean, renewable energy soon enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Dr. Larry Brilliant, Executive Director of Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, “Google.org’s hope is that by funding research on promising technologies, investing in promising new companies, and doing a lot of R&D ourselves, we may help spark a green electricity revolution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than coal.”
“We have gained expertise in designing and building large-scale, energy-intensive facilities by building efficient data centers,” said Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products. “We want to apply the same creativity and innovation to the challenge of generating renewable electricity at globally significant scale, and produce it cheaper than from coal. With talented technologists, great partners and significant investments, we hope to rapidly push forward. Our goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. We are optimistic this can be done in years, not decades.” (One gigawatt can power a city the size of San Francisco.)
On Wednesday November 28, MIT announced the terms for their first ever Clean Energy Competition in the U.S. The prize is a $200,000 award to the most promising next generation energy entrepreneur. The competition is a hybrid of the annual Buisiness Plan Competition and the Ignite Clean Energy Competition. “The ultimate goal of this contest is to find innovative solutions to transform today’s energy systems into tomorrow’s sustainable energy future,” said MIT President Susan Hockfield in a statement.
The competition begins on February 15, 2008 with a presentation of each entry on the MIT campus. Then semifinalists are announced on March 1. At this time, the semifinalists will be put through a rigorous training, mentoring, and selection process. Funded by NStar Electric & Gas Co. and the U.S. Department of Energy, the winner will be announced May 14, 2008 and presented with the grand prize, in addition 3 runner-ups will be selected and each presented with a $20,000 award.
Similar the to mission of Google’s new initiative, this competition is designed to speed up the development of new potential alternative energies. “Meeting the world’s energy needs requires much more than great ideas; we also need creative approaches,” said Ernest Moniz, director of the MIT Energy Initiative. “This competition provides another tool to meet the enormous challenges of the 21st century.”