Google CEO on cleantech and renewable energy

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, spoke at a Commonwealth Club meeting last night in S.F.

“We have seen a total and complete failure of leadership in the political parties of the United States. We’ve been working on a plan to help solve this problem,” he said.

Schmidt was inspirational, practical too. Based on what they’ve done at Google, he says renewable energy is not only the best way to combat global warming, it is also cost-effective. They installed solar in the parking lots at their headquarters for $5 million and it paid for itself in 2 1/2 years. They get 20% of their power from that solar now. Other large companies watched that happen and are doing the same. That’s real leadership.

Some points he made.

– Plugin hybrids are next. Once everyone cuts back on the amount of oil being used, guess what, the price of oil drops, resulting in even more savings.

– The US needs a massive stimulus package. He says, put most of that into rebuilding the national electric grid and renewable energy and huge numbers of new jobs, with resulting tax revenue, will be created. Many of them will be in rural areas where they really need jobs too.

– Solar and wind power is cheaper than nuclear. He ran the numbers and can prove it.

– Geothermal can be installed anywhere and the current research is to make it scale to huge commercial levels.

– Conservation is the best way to save energy.

– Solar thermal projects are being installed big time in California and the West now. They’ll be powering “a couple of San Franciscos ” in a few years, with lots more coming after that.

– The electric grid needs a huge upgrade. Make it “smart, big, and in the right places.”

– A 100 mile by 100 mile area with solar and wind power in the southwest could produce enough electricity to power the nation.

– Again, the grid needs to be smart. So does does the plugin hybrid. Then it can take more power in when consumption and rates are low. It could even feed into the grid if there’s a shortage. The technology to do this exists now.

– Smart grids can tell people about their usage. “Give information to people and they’ll make smart decisions.”

The current Congress and Administration have been perhaps the most inept in history. It’s good to see a company like Google playing a major role in getting the country to move to cleantech.

Greentech has more.