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Google Shows Hybrid Cars That Return Juice To The Grid

The cars returned some of the solar power gathered from Google's newly completed 1.6-megawatt photovoltaic system, power stored in the battery of the car, to the PG&E electrical grid.

With hundreds of thousands of servers around the world, Google consumes plenty of power. On Monday, at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, the search company began giving some of it back.

Google's plug-in Prius
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Google's plug-in Prius

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At a press event yesterday, Google co-founder Sergey Brin attached an electrical cord to a plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius and, with the assistance of Brad Whitcomb, VP of customer products and services for Pacific Gas & Electric, made one of Google's power meters run in reverse. They returned some of the solar power gathered from Google's newly completed 1.6-megawatt photovoltaic system, power stored in the battery of the car, to the PG&E electrical grid in a demonstration of how technology can be employed to respond to global climate change and to promote renewable energy.

Photos from the event can be found here.

"The project that we are launching today, RechargeIT, is part of a climate change and energy program that we have," said Larry Brilliant, executive director of, the search company's philanthropic arm. "We hope to demonstrate the potential of plug-in hybrid cars and vehicle-to-grid technologies as a way to create a more secure, efficient, and green energy system."

Brin, Brilliant, Google corporate environmental program manager Robyn Beavers, Idealab CEO William Gross, and representatives from PG&E, Sharp, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and battery maker A123 Systems took turns behind the podium to elaborate on benefits of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, and clean energy generation. Google co-founder Larry Page showed up to help Brin navigate a PHEV through the crowded Google parking lot where Monday's event took place.

Environmental projects are getting to be a habit at Google, not to mention elsewhere in the tech industry. On Tuesday, Google joined the Climate Group with the aim to become carbon neutral by 2008. Last week, Google joined with Dell, EDS, the Environmental Protection Agency, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, PG&E, World Wildlife Fund, and some 25 other organizations to announce the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, an environmental effort to make computers more energy efficient. And Google has been busy trying to reshape U.S. energy policy to address climate change.

For all its environmental concern, Google lags behind Microsoft and Yahoo in climate-related actions, according to the Climate Counts, a nonprofit environmental organization. The Climate Counts Scorecard released today rates Google at 17 out of a possible 100. Microsoft and Yahoo are rated 31 and 36, respectively. Canon, Nike, and Unilever scored the top three spots at 77, 73, and 71, respectively. Among tech companies, Amazon, Apple, and eBay scored the lowest, with 0, 2, and 2, respectively.

Google now generates about one-third of the power required to run its corporate headquarters at peak demand using solar cells. Its photovoltaic panel installation is the largest on any corporate campus in the United States, according to the company.

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