August 19, 2008

Reuters

Google puts $10 mln into new geothermal technology

LOS ANGELES, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Google Inc on Tuesday said it would invest more than $10 million in an emerging geothermal energy technology as part of its effort to lower the cost of electricity from renewable sources.Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, said the investment would go toward enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), a technology that circulates water through hot rocks in the ground, producing steam to power a turbine.Conventional geothermal technology relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam and hot water below the Earth's surface."This is an exciting new approach to geothermal that could meet thousands of times U.S. energy needs," Dan Reicher, head of climate and energy initiatives for Google.org, said in an interview. "It's 24-7, it's potentially developable all over the country ... and for all that we really do think it could be the 'killer app' of the energy world.""Killer app" is a tech term used to describe revolutionary software.Geothermal technology is a good complement to solar and wind farms, Reicher said, because their electricity output is intermittent.Google's investment includes $6.25 million for Sausalito, California-based EGS company AltaRock Energy Inc, part of a $26.25 million round of funding AltaRock announced on Tuesday. Other investors include Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) co-founder Paul Allen's investment firm, Vulcan Capital, and Silicon Valley venture capital firms Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Advanced Technology Ventures.Google will also invest $4 million in Potter Drilling Inc, a Redwood City, California-based company that is developing deep hard rock drilling technology for use with EGS.The company also announced a $489,521 grant for Southern Methodist University's Geothermal Lab to update geothermal mapping of North America.Last year, Google said it plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to help drive the cost of electricity made from renewable sources below the price of power generated from dirty coal-fired plants.The company is focusing its efforts on three technologies: solar thermal, advanced wind, and EGS. It has previously invested in Pasadena, California-based solar thermal company eSolar Inc and Alameda, California-based high-altitude wind company Makani Power Inc.Google is also interested in investing in electricity transmission and distribution, Reicher said.