Google's New Campus Comes with a Dragon Scale Solar Roof

Google dates to 1995 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met. Nearly a year later, the two created a search engine from their Stanford University dorm rooms to organize web pages by importance. The company was subsequently incorporated in 1998 under the name Backrub, becoming Google shortly after.

Google's New Campus Comes with a Dragon Scale Solar Roof

For years, the company's working conditions made headlines for an employee-centric approach. With nap rooms, pools, games, gyms, and unique office layouts, the company is one of the more notable tech-focused companies to offer these amenities; some say for the sake of employee wellbeing, others say for keeping employees at work longer.

Regardless, Google's layout has inspired other companies to follow suit and implement similar working styles, demonstrating how much influence the company has.

Another unique way Google inspires others is through its sustainability initiatives, especially a more recent project involving solar panels that resemble dragon scales.

Sustainability at Google

Located roughly an hour outside of San Francisco at Google's new Bay Campus, a fantastical solar roof will undoubtedly garner attention. Its unique geometric design is laden with tiles that mimic dragon scales.

Comprised of 90,000 silver solar PV panels, the solar roof will create "electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow." It will generate 7 megawatts of power, enough to cover roughly 40% of the property's electric usage.

Asim Tahir, Google's District & Renewable Energy Lead, noted on the company's blog:

"Eventually, our partners at SunStyle came to us with a highly textured prismatic glass shingle with a unique coating technology. The prismatic nature of the glass 'trapped' light that would normally escape from traditional flat solar panels and reduced reflective glare that can be a problem for drivers and pilots. That same texture that provides function also gives the overlapping panels a unique sparkle that earned it its name 'dragon scale.'"

Additionally, the property will house an underground geothermal battery to help cover the remaining carbon. Both initiatives were inspired by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, whose goal is to reach carbon-free data centers and campuses by 2030.

Though impressive, this isn't the company's first dive into sustainable development. Their website houses some notable initiatives and accomplishments, like the company's achievement of carbon neutrality in 2007.

Google is also committed to an ethical supply chain and partners with nonprofits around the globe, helping 500 global cities track and monitor carbon emissions. In 2017, it became the first company of its size to match 100% of "global, annual electricity consumption with renewable energy."

Google understands the massive amount of waste technology generates. To combat this issue, the company is modeling a circular economy to give tech a second life via recycling or upcycling, effectively allowing them to divert 90% of waste accumulated via their global data center operations out of landfills.

Regarding office space, the company has altered its on-site menus - eliminating almost 10 million pounds of food waste since 2014. It also provides a Bay area shuttle for employees to encourage ridesharing, among other initiatives.

Demand for Change

Though Google is seemingly ahead of the carbon neutrality trend, they, like many other companies, are gaining an increasing amount of pressure from the public to lower their footprint.

Much of this is due to growing awareness surrounding climate change and a shift toward consumer outlook on large companies. Fortunately, the increase in demand has resulted in local governments applying pressure for responsibility and accountability.

For example, California, where Google's headquarters are located, has some of the more progressive environmental regulations in the entire United States, like enacting composting laws to bring current greenhouse gas emissions down 40% by 2030. The state's guidelines have prompted many local companies to increase sustainable strategic plans to meet these rules and avoid fines.

Google is ahead of the game. Their initiatives help inspire and encourage other companies to follow similar paths, from workplace layout to sustainability. A nice side-effect is a competitive advantage that sets new standards for the industry, generating an entire sector of sustainable development and lower environmental footprints.

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