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Meet Google's energy innovation czar

Posting in Energy

Arun Majumdar, the former chief of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been hired by Google to drive energy initiatives at its philanthropic arm Google.org, a sign the company might revive its in-house research and investment program.

Majumdar also will advise the company on its broader energy strategy, Google said in an announcement Monday.

Majumdar was the founding director of ARPA-E, the equivalent to the Department of Defense's DARPA, which funds basic research and supports development of innovative technologies. Last month, ARPA-E awarded $130 million to 66 such projects.

Prior to his stint at ARPA-E, Majumdar worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley.

More than a year ago, Google shut down Renewable Cheaper Than Coal, or RE<C, an initiative developed to drive down the cost of renewable energy. Under the RE<C banner, Google.org awarded more than a $1 million in grants to Stanford University, San Diego State University, Southern Methodist University's geothermal lab and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The initiative also invested in companies, such as eSolar and Brightsource Energy to expand their work on concentrating solar power technology and in Potter Drilling to advance its geothermal drilling technology.

Google has continued to invest in renewable energy projects, including Brightsource's 377-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Project in the Mojave desert and $75 million in 50 MV wind farm in Iowa.

Still, those investments have been mostly in large-scale clean power projects, not research into breakout technologies.

The RE<C initiative might not return exactly as it once did. But with Majumdar at the helm, it appears Google.org might start funding clean power research projects again.

Photo: Flickr user poptech

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— By on December 17, 2012, 5:37 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure