Google, the owner of the most-used Internet search engine, is hiring engineers and energy experts to lead a development process that may cost hundreds of millions of dollars, the Mountain View, California-based company said today in a statement.
The project, called Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal, follows initiatives earlier this year to develop hybrid and electric cars and to maximize the efficiency of its data centers, which account for most of the energy Mountain View, California- based Google consumes.
``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,'' Larry Page, Google's co-founder, said in the statement.
The goal is to create enough renewable energy to power a city the size of San Francisco for less than it would cost using coal, in ``years, not in decades,'' Page said. Coal accounts for more than 50 percent of all U.S. power and is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions.
Jordan Rohan, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York, said investors might worry about the company's ``long-term focus'' and questioned whether the project was a good fit for the company. Google makes 99 percent of its revenue selling advertising.
`What the Heck?'
``What the heck are they doing? It boggles the mind,'' said Rohan, who advises buying Google shares. ``The company is blessed with the best business model on the Internet. This makes me worry about Google's priorities.''
Through internal development and investments in other companies, Google expects to generate revenue in the alternative energy market. Its philanthropic arm, Google.org, will make grants to companies, laboratories and universities working on renewable energy.
Google is already working with Pasadena, California-based ESolar Inc., a solar-power company, and Alameda, California-based Makani Power Inc., a developer of wind energy.
``Climate change is a very important reason for this announcement but it's not the only reason,'' co-founder Sergey Brin said today on a conference call. ``There's a lot of demand'' for cheaper energy, he said.
The company plans to hire 20 to 30 people over the next year for the project, Bill Weihl, the head of Google's environmental programs, said on the call. In June, Google and five partners including Microsoft Corp. started the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a plan to save electricity in personal computers.