Solar Energy System for Google Headquarters
Google Inc. plans to build a massive solar-electricity system to help power parts of its Mountain View, Calif., campus that it says will benefit both the environment and its bottom line. The system, to be built by EI Solutions, a unit of Energy Innovations Inc., of Pasadena, Calif., will use 9,212 solar panels and have a total capacity of 1.6 megawatts, or enough electricity to supply 1,000 average California homes. That will satisfy 30% of the campus’ peak electricity needs. The installation at Google’s headquarters, known as the Googleplex, will begin next month and will be completed in the spring. It will be the largest solar-power system ever constructed at a U.S. corporate campus and one of the largest on any corporate site in the world, EI Solutions said.
The solar panels, which cover an area equal to about four acres, will be installed on the roofs of some campus buildings and double as shading for cars in parking lots. Most of the panels will be made by Sharp Electronics, a unit of Japan’s Sharp Corp.
Google declined to say how much money it would spend to build the system. However, the company estimates the savings it expects to realize on its electricity bills will pay for the cost of the panels before leases expire on its leased campus buildings, which will hold some of the panels. EI Solutions said panels typically last for 20 to 25 years and pay for themselves within five to 10 years.
“It’s good for Google, the Earth and for shareholders,” said Google’s vice president of real estate, David Radcliffe. “If we can dispel the myth that you can’t be both green and profitable, then we’ll be happy about that.”
Google also expects to realize some savings in air-conditioning costs because the panels on the building roofs, by absorbing sunlight, will reduce the amount of heat absorbed into their top floors.
The system will work seamlessly with the power grid, allowing Google to draw more energy from the grid when the panels aren’t providing enough power due to a lack of sun. But it will also allow Google to sell the utility power at times when the panels generate too much energy.
Andrew Beebe, president of EI Solutions, said companies are becoming increasingly interested in solar power as their electricity bills mount and the costs of solar power decline. Corporate America is reaching a tipping point where “people are making these decisions on an economic basis,” he said.
Google is looking for other ways to make its campus more environmentally friendly. “This is definitely just the tip of the iceberg,” Radcliffe said, but declined to discuss other possible initiatives.