Back in July Larry Page became Google's new chief executive and immediately began a campaign to reign in Google's projects and focus their resources. This was due to the stiff competition they were facing in mobile computing and social networking from Apple and Facebook, and also investor sentiment towards increasing expenditure on none core businesses.
One of the latest casualties of this "spring cleaning" was the big green initiative, RE<C (Renewable Energy cheaper than Coal), which was an ambitious idea to make renewable energy cost competitive with coal-fired power plants. The plan was to build cheaper and more efficient heliostats, mirrors that reflect the suns rays onto water-filled boilers in order to create steam and generate electricity in turbines.
The easiest way to increase the competitiveness of solar based energy is to increase the efficiency of the system, and decrease the running costs. Google used it's brainpower to try and develop a new type of Brayton Engine that would run on compressed hot air rather than steam, because solar plants are generally constructed in the desert where water is hard to come by.
Google's senior vice president, Urs Hölzle, justified the cancellation of the CE<C project by saying "At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level......we've published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we've closed our efforts."
However this set back does not signify that Google is moving away from championing greener energy, it is merely going to use its bank account to further the cause rather than its brainpower. In fact they have already increased their investment in renewable technologies, granting $850 million of investment into solar power, wind farms and other projects.