Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the search giant, announced yesterday at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas that it will be investing more than $10 million in geothermal energy. That's a lot of AdSense dollars, folks.
A little over half of that is going to a new geothermal start-up based in Sausalito, Calif., AltaRock Energy ($6.25 million); $4 million is going to Potter Drilling, another geothermal start-up in Redwood City. An additional $489,521 is going to the Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab in Dallas, to "improve understanding of the size and distribution of geothermal energy resources and to update geothermal mapping of North America."
This marks the latest instance in the larger trend of Silicon Valley wanting to make some green by going green. The Valley has been undergoing this transition, more or less, over the past couple of years, and has accelerated within the last year or so.
An article in Fortune last month highlighted the fact that one of the Valley's biggest venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins, is essentially turning its back on the consumer Internet, which it helped to fund a decade ago. Kleiner, of course, tossed up mounds of cash for Google, Amazon, Genentech and many other famous corporations in their infancy days.
As Adam Lashinsky writes:
"We made a very deliberate and strategic decision," [John Doerr, one of the leads at Kleiner,] says with the baritone of a deejay, which he was in college. "We could've doubled down on Web 2.0, whatever that is. We didn't." Instead, the firm has been diversifying. First, in 2006, it created a $200 million fund focused exclusively on preventing infectious-disease pandemics. Then, last year, it raised $360 million to invest in China -- Kleiner's first foray outside the United States and a project that already is off to a rocky start because one of its two key recruits quit within months. The newest addition is the $500 million Green Growth Fund, launched in May.
Valleywag summed up the article with its cute headline: "No, Kleiner Perkins Won't Give Your Web 2.0 Startup Money."
Kleiner is throwing its weight behind AltaRock as well, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Along with those two giants, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's V.C. firm, Vulcan Ventures, the three are kicking in a combined total of $26.25 million.
The Valley's love of green tech isn't just about money (although that is a big piece of it), but how companies and cities (!) try to be as green as possible.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a local business association, has been trying to get its members to cut their energy use. As the Chronicle reported last fall:
Fifteen companies within the Leadership Group have agreed to cut their electricity use, saving enough power to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 15,000 tons. A dozen businesses have told automakers that they will buy plug-in hybrid vehicles, which run primarily on electricity, as soon as the car companies make them. And 55 companies are competing to see which can persuade the largest number of employees to stop driving to work alone.
An article from last summer in the Examiner said that among 22 Silicon Valley cities from Daly City to Sunnyvale that responded to a survey, "45% have or plan to conduct an inventory of CO2 emissions by city/county operations," "23% have already set CO2 emission-reduction goals," and "86% have installed low-energy, light-emitting-diode traffic signals."
Man, I can't wait for 2018 -- maybe by then my car will be electric and my PG&E bill powered entirely by geothermal, solar and wind. If Google can revolutionize search, I can't wait to see what it does for green tech.