California sun to power third of Googleplex

The world’s biggest search engine is set to become America’s biggest solar energy-producing office space when it begins converting its headquarters into a massive solar electricity park next month.

Google announced plans to mount 9,212 solar panels on roofs and parking lots at its 1m sq ft Googleplex complex at Mountain View, California, making it the biggest corporate solar generator in the US, according to EI Solutions, the company behind the fit-out.

The development would produce 1.6 megawatts of electricity, enough to light around 1,000 homes, and would reduce the amount of power Google needs to buy from the state grid to 70 percent.

David Radcliffe, the company’s vice president of real estate, told a renewables expo in San Jose the scheme will have paid for itself in five to 10 years’ time.

But the move will not only reduce overheads; it may also help allay environmentalists’ concerns. The big three internet services providers – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! – have been building facilities in the American northwest to take advantage of cheap local power; Google has set up next to the country’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Columbia River in Oregon – but this energy will be used to power a vast new remote server farm in the region.

Microsoft installed solar panels at its Silicon Valley campus earlier this year, producing 480 kilowatts, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are investors in a solar cell manufacturer, while former vice president Al Gore, who has toured the world with his An Inconvenient Truth ecological documentary, is a senior advisor to the company.