Google invests in wind power, 3D desktops and ‘time-based search’

Search giant Google has this week revealed a number of investments that concern such diverse technologies as wind power, 3D desktops, online payments and search.

The company revealed yesterday that it has invested $38.8 million in two wind farms in the US state of North Dakota. On a company blog post, Google’s green business operations manager Rick Needham described the investment as “first direct investment in a utility-scale renewable energy project”.

The two farms can produce enough “169.5 megawatts of power, enough to power more than 55,000 homes”, Needham said.

In a March 2010 report on the environmental impact of cloud computing, pressure group Greenpeace praised Google’s policy of locating its data centres near sources of renewable energy, but said that all cloud providers must “must advocate for policy change at the local, national and international levels to ensure that, as their appetite for energy increases, so does the supply of renewable energy”.

Another investment revealed this week, in this case made by the company’s investment arm Google Ventures, is in search technology developer Recorded Future. On its blog, Recorded Future says its tool “allows you to explore temporal data about people, companies, places and events where these entities occur”.

It claims the technology uses semantic text analysis to detect “events and entities” in documents, allowing it to find the ‘invisible links’ between web-based documents that concern the same subject but that may not be linked in the conventional fashion.

Other Google Ventures investments revealed this week include an online payment services company called Corduro.

Last week, the company announced its acquisition of Canadian start-up BumpTop, the developer of a graphical desktop interface, in which desktop icons are represented as objects in a ‘three dimensional’ space.  The deal was estimated to be worth between $30 million and $45 million. Google has not made its plans for BumpTop or its Google Ventures investments explicit.

The company has made more acquisitions so far this year than it did in 2008 and 2009 combined, although none have been of comparable value to its $750 million acquisition of mobile advertising technology provider AdMob, made in November 2009.

Google Ventures has expanded from a team of two when it launched last year to a staff of 16 today, the company said this week.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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