back to article Google pours millions into wind power

Why stop at global digital domination when you can add natural power resources to back up your electric empire? Fanning its green credentials, Google will invest US$100 million in a wind farm situated in the US’s Shepards Flat in eastern Oregon. The $2 billion project has also attracted investment from turbine manufacturer …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    'avoid about 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide from approximately 260,000 passenger vehicles.'

    Those vehicles must be really bad for CO2 then, producing on average approximately 5.72 tons per year!

    Hmmmmm very difficult to imagine that being true !

    (Note the article says 'from' not due to (or including) manufacture of the vehicles or petrol production).

    1. Charles Manning

      Not very difficult.

      A car using 10l/100km (28mpg UK) will emit approx 230g CO2/km. 5 tons is around 20,000 km.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Chris Hance

          10L/1km, perhaps?

          I think you shifted a zero in the wrong direction, particularly if going for hyperbole. I seriously doubt any US(-marketed) car gets upwards of 200 mpg, which is what your math implies.

      2. John Angelico

        Metrics, metrics

        Now where does one find such figures as 230g/km?

        And who established this benchmark? With what sort of testing?

        And since a lot of cars will vary in fuel efficiency, what is the metric for a car that does 12L/100km? Or 6L/100km on diesel? etc., etc.

    2. Geoff Campbell

      Well, do the sums....

      Depends on the car. If you assume CO2 emissions of 200g/km, not entirely unreasonable for a mid-range car, that's 28,600 km to produce 5.72 tonnes of CO2, not a particularly high mileage. So that's certainly not an unreasonable claim, within the normal bounds of marketing wiggle room.


    3. Chemist

      That'd be

      ~1.9 tonnes diesel -> ~ 5.8 tonnes CO2

      1.9 tonnes ~ 2300L

      ~45 L /week of diesel equivalent to ~500 miles in my Touran

      You may be certain that the average vehicle on USA roads is not achieving 50 mpg

    4. Semianonymous Megacoward
      Big Brother

      The U.S. EPA says 5.5 tons

      "annual emissions from a typical passenger vehicle should be equated to 5.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or 1.5 metric tons of carbon equivalent."

  2. Nick Galloway

    Not Reg readers then...

    Google clearly have failed to not the reports coming out that wind power is not going anywhere fast. Get into geothermal or Thorium reactors boys, then you might have something to talk about. No wind, no leccy regardless of how good (or expensive) the tech!

    1. Tim Parker

      @Nick Galloway

      "Google clearly have failed to not the reports coming out that wind power is not going anywhere fast."

      ..or perhaps they're just not prone to over-generalisation like some are ? AFAICS wind power certainly seems not to be a good choice for any major power production in the UK as a whole, but even here there are some places where it can make sense for local power production. This location may also be suitable for whatever needs they may have - if so, fair play.

      Of course it could be any mixture of that and free advertising, good PR, tax / monetary considerations or something else entirely - Google aren't going to be doing something like this all on the quiet purely for the benefit of all us other folk - but to think the debate on wind power has somehow indicated that wind power is useless regardless of context is to miss much.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...I think even Lewis would agree that this is one case where it would make sense. They've got a local requirement for heavy power use that they want to locate somewhere unpleasant weather-wise. They want the "unpleasant" for cooling - wind's a bonus.

      Arguments: only idiots think they're black and white.

    3. Michael 28

      What the hell is a gigawatt???

      ...this news has been around for some time. However, much of the interest has been geothermal.(

  3. crosspatch

    Think of the bats!

    There is an increasing body of information that all these wind farms are causing tremendous damage to bat populations. It is already estimated that bat kills by wind turbines is costing US agriculture billions of dollars in losses due to increased insect damage. This loss of natural pest control is also causing an increase in pesticide application.

    These things kill bats, they kill birds, and for no good reason. Shame on Google!

  4. Eddy Ito
    Big Brother

    260k vehicles

    So that would roughly be the Google street-voyeur fleet.

  5. Richard 12 Silver badge

    $2.4 million per MW plant capacity

    Yay for Wind!

    Except that's actually 100% capacity which they'll never reach. Erm. At a more plausible 30% of 'capacity' output:

    $7,900,000 per MW at expected duty cycle.

    $Deity that's expensive.

    Tata built a 4000 MW capacity 'clean coal' plant for $2.1 billion* in 2008-present. Theirs is actually capable of 100% duty, so $525,000 per MW at expected duty cycle - under a tenth the capital cost.

    *It was the same amount of money at the same stage in the project. Chances are both will/did overshoot their budget.

    1. The BigYin


      "Theirs is actually capable of 100% duty, so $525,000 per MW at expected duty cycle - under a tenth the capital cost."

      That's a fair point, but it ignores one thing; what's the planet cost? Dust-to-dust, which one costs the planet more per MW? That is the only measure of concern.

      And as it happens, I think wind is an utter waste of space. Never mind the blight on the landscape and the threat to wildlife, wind cannot be relied on; is often there when you don't need it and gone when you do (30% capacity is pushing it).

      Nuclear (even after recent events) is a better option.

      Simply using less is an even better option.

  6. Anteaus

    Subsidies confuse the issue of windfarm viability.

    Not sure what the Stateside situation is, but in the UK the main factor in the proliferation of windfarms is that they are subsidized.

    While windpower may not necessarily be a bad thing, it's difficult to make any objective assessment of the economic viability where subsidies are involved. Even if we know how much subsidy was given, we don't know if the investor would have acted differently, sans subsidy.

    1. copsewood

      All forms of electric generation are subsidised

      Wind and solar through feed in tariffs.

      Coal/oil/gas through the costs of local pollution and global climate influence and change.

      Nuclear through the state picking up the costs of occasional major evacuations of population and long term waste management.

      Hydro through the inadequate compensation paid to displaced and destroyed communities.

      We won't have a sensible and rational debate on this until all of the costs of all of the main means of generating electricity are factored in.

      1. frank 3

        you forgot a key subsidy.

        oil/gas - regular wars to police the sorts of places that produce. Or. You could choose to believe that we are in the middle East purely to further democracy, justice and so on - and the 50,000 dead iraqis should be GRATEFUL dammit.

  7. BorkedAgain

    Will nobody stop this evil?

    How dare they take this resource and steal its energy to generate power to run their servers for free! Surely everyone knows that the wind energy is created by the rising column of hot air over Cupertino (powered by St Jobs himself, bless him) and it's typical that Google are simply helping themselves to someone else's creative power etc etc...

  8. camnai


    Good on them. Wind power is not going to fill much of our needs anytime soon, but we need to be working on making it more efficient. The real costs of oil and gas (the war in Iraq? The maintenance of navies to police sea lanes?), nuclear power (the economic loss from the perception that produce from Fukushima Prefecture might be dangerous, even if it turns out that danger is exaggerated), and even hydro does not show in calculations of their real cost.

  9. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    How much CO2 will be emitted during the manufacture, installation and maintenance of the turbines?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google's Jet aircraft

    Forget about cars, how much CO2 from flights of Larry and Sergey's private Boeing 767 jet, or Google's Boeing 757, Gulfstream VS and their new fighter Alpha Jet, does this cover?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    "enough energy to supply more than 235,000 average US homes"

    ...or do they mean enough energy to supply the *electricity needs* of 235,000 average US homes - excluding their consumption of energy in the form of gas, oil, petrol, and diesel?

  12. Jad

    Environmentally friendly?

    "Disadvantages of permanent magnets in synchronous generator


    The mining of high performance permanent magnet materials is environmentally demanding and as a result, the use of permanent magnets is by no means environmentally friendly."

    hmm ... maybe they really are doing evil!?!

  13. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    Nuclear merely needs siting properly

    The only reason the reactors in Japan fared so badly was that they were sited in a poor position. If you site nuclear reactors a long way from the sea (but not a long way from a lake suitable for supplying coolant water) and away from earthquake-prone areas, then you don't have the problems that these cause. Electricity transmission by overhead lines suffers very low losses, due to the extremely high voltages in use, so putting nuclear plants in remote, stable areas isn't the terrible loss that you might imagine, especially if a rail link to the site is built alongside the power lines.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge


      >The only reason the reactors in Japan fared so badly..

      Was because their ageing design made them dependant on more primitive, less well built, technology. It seems likely that a modern design built to the same standard would have only required an inspection and then been back in service within a week or two.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        New technology

        Ah yes, because the problem is always with old technology. Well, Fukushima wasn't even that old.

        By that rationale airplanes shouldn't be falling from the sky anymore, but look again they still are. Even super ultra modern jet engines like the RR's powering the A380 have quite critical problems.

        There's no true fail proof technology. Would you blindly apply to join that inspection crew on a "modern" reactor? Probably not.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge


          >Ah yes, because the problem is always with old technology. Well, Fukushima wasn't even that old

          They were at the end of their operating life. I suppose they might have got an extension but still - they were a sixty year old design (ie;almost going back to the dawn of the technology) and over forty years old. Pretty much any power generating facility would be due to be retired by then.

    2. Steve Brooks

      logical fail, but nice try

      " If you site nuclear reactors a long way from the sea (but not a long way from a lake suitable for supplying coolant water) and away from earthquake-prone areas,".....Several points here 1) Japan IS an eathquake prone area, by you argument there should be no nuclear plants in japan at all. 2) Fracture of bedrock is quite common during major earthquakes and assuming that we have to build a nuclear plant somewhere in Japan and it will eventually get hit by an earthquake such a fracture could drain the lake completely and have a damaged nuclear plant with NO cooling at all. The logic of having it near the sea, even if no seawater is actually used for cooling under normal operation is that there is always a source of water reasonably close that can be used in an emergency.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Clean wind power? It's a myth

    You need either nuclear or coal to generate 'leccy in order to build and assemble the generators for the windmills.

  15. copsewood

    @Anonymous South African Coward

    "You need either nuclear or coal to generate 'leccy in order to build and assemble the generators for the windmills."

    Only at the beginning of windpower. By the same logic you need water wheels to generate mechanical power in order to build steam engines. The fact that there was a time when that proposition was true didn't make it universally true.

    Self hosting applies to power source development as it does to compiler and operating systems development:

  16. Paul Robinson

    Here's something for Google to spend it's money on

    After all, they asked Robert Bussard to give this talk -

    I'm no physicist, and practically ALL of this talk went over my head, but for a "mere" $200 million (at 2006 prices!) here is a possible alternative to fission reactors, and to the current (very expensive - $14 Billion - as at 2006) attempts at fusion.

    1. Anteaus
      Thumb Up

      Yes, interesting research

      I wouldn't like to say if Bussard's ideas are viable or not, but they are based on Farnsworth's work, which was actually PRODUCING fusion, albeit at a low level, long before the Tokamak-based reactors produced a single fast neutron. On that basis it seems like a better area to put money into.

      That, and at least the Polywell (Bussard reactor) guys have a scheme for generating power from a fullscale reactor. Albeit so far a theoretical one, because they don't have the cash to test it. The Tokamak guys, after billions spent on research, have so far shown that they could in principle ruin their apparatus with fusion-produced radiation and heat, but that's about all. They have no workable idea for extracting power from it.

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