Google shuts down its initiative to reduce the cost of clean power

Google (s GOOG) is officially shutting down its own in-house research initiative and equity investing focus on lowering the cost of clean power, called Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal, or RE<C, which it launched back in 2007. Google made the announcement in a blog post on Tuesday, and it said “other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level.”
RE<C has been focused on using Google’s resources to help innovate around clean power technology, and Google has spent the past two years developing its own solar mirrors in an effort to help lower the costs of solar thermal technology (see photos to the left and right). Google published its research on the solar heliostats and solar water-cooling technology on its website, and it said “we’ve closed our efforts” around these technologies and “we’ve reached a point in our engineering projects where we’re facing new challenges related to our solar receiver design.”
Google also noted that while it has been working on solar thermal designs, solar panels have declined dramatically in cost over the past few years.
RE<C also included equity investments in clean power companies like solar thermal companies BrightSource and eSolar and geothermal company Potter Drilling. Google also invested in geothermal research through the initiative. Earlier this month Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl announced he was leaving the company and had been working on these internal research efforts.
Google says it will continue to operate clean power on its campuses, invest in clean power projects — it has already invested $850 million on clean power projects — and investigate ways to procure clean power for its data centers.
Google is not getting out of the clean power game entirely, but it won’t be acting as a clean power engineering house or likely a cleantech VC any longer.