MOUNTAIN VIEW — Google intends to make one of its huge new Mountain View campuses completely green through an intricate melding of solar panels and geothermal energy tapped from the earth beneath the vast complex.
The tech titan’s top boss revealed the eye-catching plans during a brief segment of a two-hour presentation this week as part of the company’s wide-ranging I/O developer conference.
Google and its parent company Alphabet are attempting to develop more major office and data centers that can operate carbon-free — potentially around-the-clock — Alphabet Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said during a keynote presentation for the conference.
The campus would use solar panels reminiscent of a dragon’s scales on its canopy rooftop in harmony with geothermal piles beneath the office complex to create an energy arrangement that would cool the vast structure in hot weather and heat it during cold weather.
Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google owner Alphabet, speaks at Google’s I/O conference, with a concept of the Google Bay View campus next to him, May 2021. // Google LLC
“We can unlock geothermal power in a broad range of new places,” Pichai said at the end of the lengthy keynote presentation.
One of these applications is slated to occur in Silicon Valley.
“It’s happening right here in Mountain View,” Pichai said. “We are building our new campus to the highest sustainable standards.”
The Bay View complex is a campus that Google is building in Mountain View at the NASA Ames Research Center. The project will total 1.2 million square feet and will sprout at the corner of Lomax Lane and Wright Avenue.
Google Bay View campus on the NASA Ames Research Center complex near the corner of Wright Avenue and Lomax Lane. // Christopher McAnneny / Heatherwick Studio
“When completed, these buildings will feature first-of-its-kind dragon-scale solar skin,” Pichai said.
It’s expected that the 90,000 panels on the roof could generate seven megawatts of electricity, he added.
The Bay View campus is slated to open by the end of 2021, part of Google’s strategy to return to the office in the wake of the coronavirus-linked business shutdowns.
Google Bay View campus diagram showing how the office complex will use solar panels shaped like dragon scales as well as thermal piles to heat and cool the building in a green energy fashion, concept. // Google LLC
Beneath the complex, the geothermal piles driven into the ground could transfer heat upwards into the building or release energy back into the ground.
“The campus will have the largest geothermal pile system in North America, helping to heat the buildings in the winter and cool them in the summer,” Pichai said.
Traditionally, geothermal energy has been thought of as primarily connected directly to a power source such as the geysers in Sonoma County.
Mountain View-based Google aims to dramatically widen how people think of — and employ — geothermal power.
“We need to go beyond wind and solar and tap into sources of on-demand clean energy like geothermal,” Pichai said.
Google executives concede this will be a tricky endeavor for which immediate success could be elusive, Pichai said. Google sees a fully green operation for its new campus and other office complexes and data centers as one that is like the company’s other cutting-edge endeavors such as self-driving vehicles.
“This is a moonshot,” Pichai said.