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Google’s love for solar may extend to other renewables

BOSTON–When it comes to bragging rights and solar power, Google’s on top: it has the largest corporate installation of solar-powered electricity yet.

But that apparently is just the beginning. The search giant is also considering other forms of renewable energy, according to Robyn Beavers, the director of environmental programs at Google. Google intends to generate 50 megawatts of electricity from renewable forms for its operations by 2012.

Beavers spoke at the Conference on Clean Energy here on Monday where she outlined a number of initiatives that Google participates in aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Those include the 1.6 megawatt solar installation at its corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. In addition to panels on building roofs, Google has constructed a car port with solar panels as a roof, under which people can charge up plug-in hybrids.

Asked whether Google was considering wind power, Beavers said she couldn’t say. But she didn’t leave much doubt that all forms of renewable energy are actively under consideration.

“Wind, solar, geothermal, fuel cells–you name it, we’re looking into it,” she said.

Corporate buyers are prized customers for the thousands of clean-tech start-ups that have cropped up over the past few years. Wal-Mart’s decision to invest in solar has been a closely watched move and indicator of solar power demand.

Renewable energy projects like solar, wind or biomass can be financially interesting to businesses because they typically allow companies to get a contract with fixed energy prices, which acts as a hedge against rising rates.

In the case of Google, which consumes a lot of electricity to power its operations and data centers, its investment in solar electricity will pay for itself in seven and a half years. Its consumption from the grid has been reduced by 30 percent and its bills cut down a lot more than 30 percent, Beavers said.

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