Google's march to become an energy company



Quick Take: Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of thermostat maker NEST has driven a lot of speculation, including this thoughtful commentary by Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck.


Now Utility Dive is out with a meandering article that highlights some of the search giant's other energy plays. Add them all together, and it's hard to avoid the feeling that Google intends to get into energy in a big way. - Jesse Berst


Consider these developments from the past few years over and above the NEST acquisition:

·      Google invests $75 million in Clean Power Finance to help residential customers go solar October 2011

·      Google invests $94 million in solar plants December 2011

·      Google invests $12 million in South African solar PV plant May 2012

·      Google invests $75 million in Iowa wind farm November 2012

·      Google invests $200 million in Texas wind farm January 2013

·      Google invests $103 million in California solar farm October 2013

·      Google invests $75 million in Texas wind farm January 2014


NRG Energy CEO David Crane told the Atlantic Magazine that the energy companies of the future will essentially become information technology companies -- and Google is already at the head of that pack. Back in 2008 when he was still CEO, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said he thought the energy space was "a problem for the Internet and personal computers - it's the largest opportunity I could possibly imagine."


Google, of course, thrives on big data problems. Indeed, at least one report says that it had already been experimenting with smart thermostats before the NEST acquisition. The pilot's goal is to goal is to collect data, then build applications make the energy grid more efficient.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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