Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Greenwashing or good business? Google fronts $75 million to help homeowners seek solar

This week, Google announced that they are investing $75 million to bring solar panels into residential homes. The search giant will own all of the hardware, including the power cells and inverters. In essence, they hope to allow up to 3,000 homeowners in western sunny states to “refinance” their power bills through solar energy.

As reports, Google will “provide the financing so 3,000 homes can get hooked up, at no out-of pocket cost, to a system that typically runs between $30,000 and $40,000. Local installers will do the work, and then homeowners will pay a fixed, monthly rate for their electricity. All maintenance is covered by the rate.” Google gets paid when the customers buy the energy that the panels produce, though they haven’t revealed what kind of return they expect.

But is this just a bit of greenwashing? At first glance, it’s a benevolent move by a giant corporation to support sustainable energy. But Google still recently revealed their total energy use, and its company servers are rippling with electricity.

As The New York Times reports, “Those data centers around the world continuously draw almost 260 million watts — about a quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant.” This is enough to power 200,000 homes. Google countered that their carbon footprint is still lower because people are searching for information from their homes and not driving a car to a library.

Ultimately, Google has some energy glutton issues to resolve. Still, they have invested as much as $850 million in renewable energy over the years. So does their latest move warrant criticism or favor? In the end, it simply may be a step in the right direction for corporate America.

Image: scobleizer/Flickr