Google Goes Solar

The search engine giant plans to build the nationé─˘s largest corporate solar installation at its headquarters. By Alisa Opar

Google has already captured the globe with Google Earth, and now the search engine giant is preparing to capture the sun—or at least its energy.

In the coming weeks, Google will break ground on the largest corporate solar installation in the country at its headquarters in Mountain View , California . The solar-powered electricity system will be capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity—that's roughly the amount needed to power 1,000 homes.

“When the project is completed this spring, Google employees, shareholders, and the community around us will begin to enjoy the environmental as well as economic benefits of clean, renewable energy generated onsite,” said David Radcliffe, vice president of real estate at Google, in a press release.

More than 9,200 solar panels will supply 30 percent of the electricity used each day at the million-square-foot Googleplex. Most of the panels will be placed on the rooftops of several office buildings, but some will go atop structures to be built in parking lots, providing energy and shade.

Google and its project partner, EI Solutions, are keeping mum about the cost. But the companies estimate that the solar generation equipment will pay for itself in less than eight years.

That’s a relatively short payback period, said Steve Chadima, head of marketing at EI Solutions. “The biggest hurdle for a lot of businesses is getting a payback period that is at least reasonable,” said Chadima.

Part of Google’s aim is to dispel the myth that it’s impossible to be green and profitable. “Google is demonstrating to other companies that you can do these projects for economic reasons as well as for environmental reasons,” said Chadima.