San Francisco: Internet titan Google and technology colossus General Electric said on Wednesday they are joining forces to promote a “smart” US electric power grid and clean energy.
The companies said they will work together on green energy technologies and lobby US political leaders to support “visionary policies” on renewable energy.
“Both companies believe that our economic, environmental and security challenges require that we use electricity more efficiently, generate it from cleaner sources, and electrify our transportation fleet,” the US firms said in a joint release.
“This 21st century electricity system must combine advanced energy technology -- a major GE focus - and cutting edge information technology - a major Google focus.”
During the past two years, Google has launched a series of clean energy initiatives that include investing in geothermal, solar and wind-generated electricity.
Google has a team of engineers working on a “renewable energy cheaper than coal” project with a goal of making energy from earth-friendly sources more affordable than electricity made by burning carbon-spewing fossil fuel.
The benefits of renewable electricity can’t fully be realized without updating US power transmission lines into a “smart grid” that lets people track and control what types of power they use and when, according to Google.
The US network of electricity transmission lines needs to be upgraded from a “dumb” system that simply routes power from massive generation plants to users, said Google.org director of climate change and energy initiatives Dan Reicher.
Political and regulatory hurdles, not technological ones, block the path to revamping the US power grid, according to Reicher.
Smart power grids would allow people to conduct tasks such as recharging electric cars at times of day when demand is not high, and enable them to sell solar or other renewable energy back to utility companies.
“The transmission system is about the last mile, to people’s homes, and making technology available so people can better control their own energy,” Reicher said.
Major automobile makers have announced they will market plug-in electric cars in the United States no later than 2010.
Google has a fleet of plug-in vehicles it has been testing and invests in the technology.
Software can enable electric vehicles to feed power back to the grid during peak-demand periods and only charge themselves when demand is low.
Google is aligning its computer programming acumen with GE’s expertise as “a king of electronics hardware.
“A smart grid is something we desperately need in this country and we humbly think we might have something to contribute,” Reicher said.
Google’s alliance with GE includes using the company’s hardware for renewable energy research.
For example, GE equipment will let engineers map fractures in the Earth’s crust to “take advantage of deep-down heat” to make geothermal power.
Google and GE say they are not aiming to form a huge coalition but expect other companies to join the alliance as interests and objectives overlap.