Google's Newest Clean Energy Project: Solar Leasing

Google backs you up on everything else in life; why not let them help you save a little on your electricity bill as well?

Google announced this week that it’s investing $280 million in SolarCity, a company that installs and maintains residential-scale solar panels. Customers pay a fee for this service, either up-front or at a monthly rate—and end up saving less money on electricity than they would if they were to buy and install the panels themselves—but they avoid the risk and long-term commitment of ownership. In this system, SolarCity and, by extension, Google take on that risk and the government tax credits that go along with installing solar panels. If you’re like me, Google already backs everything else in life; why not let the company help you save a little on your electricity bill as well?

Google has been putting money towards clean energy for more than a year now, but up until this past April, it had invested primarily in wind projects. There are two places to invest in solar power: on the residential scale or on the utility scale. Google’s first two solar investments went to utility-scale projects. Its first venture, just $5 million, supported a plain-vanilla solar power plant in Germany. Its second investment, of $168 billion, went to a 450-foot-tall solar tower, which collects energy from light reflected by a field of mirrors.

This investment, Google’s biggest to date, supports distributed solar power on a consumer level. For SolarCity, $280 million represents its single biggest chunk of project finance funding. The Google money makes up a fifth of the total $1.28 billion SolarCity says it has raised from project partners.

SolarCity customers might save less on their electricity bills than DIYers who have tens of thousands of dollars to sink into a solar system. But much like Google’s search engine, the more people who contribute to a network of residential solar panels, the stronger the system becomes. More residential installations means less stress on the grid and less pressure to build new power plants or draw on dirty energy sources like coal.

Right now, SolarCity’s business model depends in part on government tax credits that make solar an attractive investment for companies like Google. But across the board, solar power is becoming more accessible on a consumer level. Last month, the hardware store company Lowe’s announced a program that would make it easy for customers to walk into one of its stores and get a quote for solar installation. And consumer products are moving away from designs so ugly that no discerning person would leave the house carrying one. In 2005, for instance, a solar-powered beach or patio umbrella looked like a frisbee from outer space; in 2009, it looked like a normal umbrella with solar panels pasted on; in 2010, it looked like a normal umbrella.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Mary Austin


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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