Google's Energy Ambitions

Google wants to harness the wind.

The tech giant announced today that it invested nearly $40 million in two North Dakota wind farms, to spur the use of renewable energy "in a way that makes good business sense." The investments are part of Google's ongoing foray into the industry and may both be a first step toward a "big play," and serve the company's long-term interest.

The search giant raised eyebrows in January when it announced that it was awaiting government approval to buy and sell power like a utility company. That approval was granted in February and could help Google someday power its many data centers, Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl said at a conference last week.

While a spokesman said the North Dakota wind farms will not be used to power those data centers, Weihl outlined a very similar scenario -- one in which they would, in the long run. To build a wind farm to serve Google's needs, a developer would need the tech giant to sign a 10- to 20-year agreement, Weihl said. As that farm is built out, Google would continue to receive energy under its current utility contract, thus losing money. By being able to buy and sell energy, Google can avoid that waste.

"That's fundamentally the type of thing we want to do," Weihl said, reiterating that the company has no grand goals. "We don't want to become an energy trader, or God forbid the next Enron."

Presented by

Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Dravet Syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy that affects children. Could marijuana oils alleviate their seizures?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Technology

Just In