Google invests in rooftop solar

Adriene Hill Sep 28, 2011

Google invests in rooftop solar

Adriene Hill Sep 28, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: Google is known for its searches, its email, its attempt at social networking. Google+ anyone?

But solar power? Not right at the top of the list. But Google said today it’s going to invest — invest more, in fact — in the renewable energy market.

From the Sustainability Desk, Marketplace’s Adriene Hill reports.

Adriene Hill: Google-owned solar panels — coming soon to a rooftop near you.

Seriously. The Internet giant wants to pay to put solar panels on 3,000 homes, with an initial investment of $75 million.

Justin Molavi: Google is going to increasingly be the company that is going to be in all of our households. They are going to want to power everything we use.

Justin Molavi is a senior analyst at IBIS World.

Molavi: Just because they are doing well on the Internet doesn’t mean that they can’t break off into other interests of theirs.

I ask him why Google — a company known for its Internet searches and email — wants to own rooftop solar panels. Simple, he says: Google sees a good business opportunity. Homeowners will pay Google a monthly bill for their solar power. Google will also be able to take advantage of government incentives.

This isn’t Google’s first foray into renewable energy. The company’s total investment is now around $850 million.

Ethan Zindler: They’re like a new bank for clean energy to some degree.

Ethan Zindler is an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. He says there are also long-term reasons for Google to invest in renewable energy.

Zindler: Google obviously has substantial energy needs. It runs major server farms and eventually would like to be able to have power, dedicated power, from clean energy projects in which they are paying relatively low costs.

So is Google on its way to being as synonymous with renewable energy as it is with search? No time soon, says Zindler. But right now, it is helping to lead the way.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

Ryssdal: One more solar note of note, before we move on. Remember Solyndra, the bankrupt solar company that got half a billion dollars in government loan guarantees? Well, nothing about them today, but the Energy Department did approve almost $1 billion in guarantees for two other solar firms today. One each in Nevada and Arizona. A Department of Energy spokesman did say the finances of both parent companies had gotten a thorough going-over.

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