R-Squared Energy Blog

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Renewable Energy Jobs at Google

A recruiter from Google recently contacted me and asked if I would put a note on here that they are looking for candidates for their Renewable Energy Group. You may recall that I previously wrote a post covering several companies – Green Job Opportunities. This one is specifically for Google. Below is their call for qualified people to take up the challenge of supplying clean energy to the world.

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Environmental sustainability in the face of global climate change is a high priority for Google because, as our business grows, so does our demand for energy. We’ve worked hard to increase our efficiency and become carbon-neutral, but when it comes to buying clean and affordable electricity we still have limited options. We’ve recently announced that we’re taking a first step toward tackling this important challenge.

Business as usual: will not deliver low-cost, clean energy fast enough to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change. We need a clean energy solution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than carbon-intensive alternatives such as coal. Google is launching an internal R&D group to develop electricity from renewable energy sources at a cost less than coal. This initiative will explore advanced solar thermal power, high-altitude wind, enhanced geothermal systems, and eventually other breakthrough technologies as well.

Head of Renewable Energy: http://www.google.com/support/jobs/bin/answer.py?answer=81799&query=energy&topic=&type=energy

Renewable Energy Engineer: http://www.google.com/support/jobs/bin/answer.py?answer=81800&query=energy&topic=&type=energy

If you know other outstanding engineers who may be interested in joining the team, I encourage you to pass along this information as we are hiring for multiple positions.

May 29, 2008 Posted by | employment, Google, jobs | 9 Comments

How to Change the World

Fortune has a very interesting interview with Google co-founder Larry Page. He hits on a lot of topics that are frequently discussed here, and some that aren’t often discussed, but that I have spent a lot of time thinking about (e.g., geothermal). Here is a link to the interview:

Larry Page on how to change the world

And some energy-specific excerpts:

Do you have other examples where innovative leadership could move the needle?

I think there are a lot of areas. You can be a bit of a detective and ask, What are the industries where things haven’t changed much in 50 years? We’ve been looking a little at geothermal power. And you start thinking about it, and you say, Well, a couple of miles under this spot or almost any other place in the world, it’s pretty darn hot. How hard should it be to dig a really deep hole? We’ve been drilling for a long time, mostly for oil – and oil’s expensive. If you want to move heat around, you need bigger holes. The technology just hasn’t been developed for extracting heat. I imagine there’s pretty good odds that’s possible.

Solar thermal’s another area we’ve been working on; the numbers there are just astounding. In Southern California or Nevada, on a day with an average amount of sun, you can generate 800 megawatts on one square mile. And 800 megawatts is actually a lot. A nuclear plant is about 2,000 megawatts.

The amount of land that’s required to power the entire U.S. with electricity is something like 100 miles by 100 miles [RR comment: That’s around what I have come up with whenever I tried to calculate it. Maybe that’s where he got it, since I often get hits from Google in Mountain View. 🙂] So you say, “What do I need to do to generate that power?” You could buy solar cells. The problem is, at today’s solar prices you’d need trillions of dollars to generate all the electricity in the U.S. Then you say, “Well, how much do mirrors cost?” And it turns out you can buy pieces of glass and a mirror and you can cover those areas for not that much money. Somehow the world is not doing a good job of making this stuff available. As a society, on the larger questions we have, we’re not making reasonable progress.

And it looks like we are on the same page – no pun intended – regarding the solution to our energy problems:

So you think that geothermal and solar thermal could solve our energy problems?

Yeah, probably either one could generate all the energy we need. There’s no discipline to actually do this stuff, and you can also see this vested interest, risk-averse behavior, plus a lack of creativity. It sort of conspires. It’s also a timeliness thing; everyone said Sam Walton was crazy to build big stores in small towns. Almost everyone who has had an idea that’s somewhat revolutionary or wildly successful was first told they’re insane.

He also comments on who needs to be working on these changes:

Whose obligation is it to make this kind of change happen? Is it Google’s? The government’s? Stanford’s? Kleiner Perkins’?

I think it’s everybody who cares about making progress in the world. Let’s say there are 10,000 people working on these things. If we make that 100,000, we’ll probably get 10 times the progress.

And then you compare it with the number of engineers at Exxon and Chevron and ConocoPhillips who are trying to squeeze the last drop of oil out of somewhere, and all the science brainpower that’s going to that. It’s totally disproportionate to the return that they could get elsewhere.

What kind of background do you think is required to push these kinds of changes?

I think you need an engineering education where you can evaluate the alternatives. For example, are fuel cells a reasonable way to go or not? For that, you need a pretty general engineering and scientific education, which is not traditionally what happens. That’s not how I was trained. I was trained as a computer engineer. So I understand how to build computers, how to make software. I’ve learned on my own a lot of other things. If you look at the people who have high impact, they have pretty general knowledge. They don’t have a really narrowly focused education.

April 30, 2008 Posted by | geothermal, Google, Larry Page, solar power, solar thermal | 13 Comments

Green Job Opportunities

Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to “make a difference” by making a significant contribution to society. I have a soft spot for families and especially for kids, and I really wanted to contribute toward the quality of life for those groups. A big concern is that quality of life for a large segment of the world’s population, never good to begin with, is poised for further deterioration as fossil fuel supplies deplete.

Quality of life to me starts with the basics: People have enough food and clean water, they have shelter, they live and work in safe conditions, and they have adequate access to affordable energy. At various stages of my life I have had involvement in projects in all of these areas, but most of my career has been focused on the energy portion – both in providing adequate supplies, and in urging conservation efforts to stretch our supplies.

The affordable energy piece is becoming more challenging, and we need more people working on this issue. As I transition into my new “green” job, I intend to step up my efforts on the sustainable energy front. There are a number of ways I can do this. First, my new job directly impacts on this. The technology we are engaged in – described briefly in the final section – promises significant environmental and sustainability benefits. But that isn’t the sole contribution I can make. I can also help bring promising sustainable technologies together with highly-motivated and talented people to enhance the odds of success. Up to this point I have done this by calling attention to technologies that I felt were promising, as well as by providing technical advice for some projects on an ad hoc basis.

With this essay, I am attempting to marry talent/passion with need by publicizing vacancies for some specific “green jobs.” I have had a series of conversations over the past year or so with Choren, a renewable diesel company that is now looking to scale up. Google contacted me last week to inform me of some of their vacancies in their new renewable energy efforts. Vinod Khosla has informed me several times that many of the companies he is involved with are looking for talent. And my new company is recruiting as well. I don’t think these jobs will be competing for exactly the same talent pool, because the job locations are geographically diverse. So, if you are looking for a green future and decent job stability (a recent story from Yahoo identified jobs in the energy and environmental sectors as “recession proof”) – here are some opportunities of which I am currently aware.

Choren

I have had a series of discussions over the past year or so with some of the Choren staff, including the president of Choren USA, Dr. David Henson. During the course of these discussions, I formed the opinion that Choren is ideally positioned for long term success in the renewable energy sphere. I think they are focusing on the right technology (biomass-to-liquids) for sustainable liquid fuel production, and they are on the leading edge of that technology. Dr. Henson will be hosting me at Choren’s new BTL plant in Germany in a month or so, and hope to make a report on the visit.

Their opportunities are described from their website as follows:

For the expansion to “world”-scale 600 MWth “Sigma” production facilities and the exploration of additional applications of CHOREN’s technologies we are now seeking highly motivated engineering specialists in the areas of Mechanical Engineering, Process/Chemical Engineering and Energy Technology, preferably with long or short-term experience in any of the fields of gasification, Fischer Tropsch Fuel Synthesis and/or in the Petrochemical Industry.

Choren is looking to fill the following positions in Houston:

Project Manager CHOREN USA, Job Description

Senior Process Engineer CHOREN USA, Job Description

Process Engineer CHOREN USA, Job Description

You can learn more information about the job opportunities at Choren by visiting their Employment Opportunities USA page.

Google

I have admired Google for a long time. They seem genuinely motivated by a desire to help humanity. You may also be aware that they have topped CNN Money’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For for the second year in a row.

Recently, they announced their intent to help power a clean energy revolution. I was aware of, and supportive of their efforts, and in a different time and place I might jump at the opportunity to work for them. Recently, they contacted me about just that, and I replied that while the timing is not right for me, I would help them publicize their vacancies.

Here is a short description of their vision, and what they are looking for:

Our thinking is that business as usual will not deliver low-cost, clean energy fast enough to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change. We need a clean energy revolution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than carbon-intensive alternatives such as coal. Google is launching an R&D group to develop electricity from renewable energy sources at a cost less than coal.

We are looking for extraordinarily creative, motivated and talented engineers with significant experience in developing complex engineering designs to join our newly-created renewable energy group. This group is tasked with developing the most cost-effective and scalable forms of renewable energy generation, and these people will play a key role in developing new technologies and systems.

…if you know other outstanding engineers who may be interested, I encourage you to pass along this information as we are hiring for multiple positions. If you prefer that I reach out to them directly, I am more than happy to do so.

Their specific job opportunities at the moment, mostly at their Mountain View, California site:

Renewable Energy Engineer
Head of Renewable Energy Engineering
Director, Green Business Strategy & Operations
Director of Other
Investments Manager, Renewable Energy

They are also asking for people with the following experience:

If you have relevant expertise in other areas beyond these specific positions, please send an email with your resume to energy@google.com . Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

• regulatory issues
• land acquisition and management
• construction
• energy project development
• mechanical and electrical engineering
• thermodynamics and control systems
• physics and chemistry
• materials science

Khosla Ventures

Vinod Khosla has built quite a renewable energy portfolio. See this PowerPoint presentation for his complete (or at least what’s public) renewable portfolio. Opportunities range from corn ethanol (which I don’t recommend) to cellulosic ethanol (some promising opportunities there) to advanced biofuels, electrical power, and even water desalinization. There are far too many companies to give details on all of the job vacancies, so I will just pick out one of the most interesting (to me), LS9. They describe themselves as the Renewable Petroleum Company™, and have this description on their website:

LS9 DesignerBiofuels™ products are customized to closely resemble petroleum fuels, engineered to be clean, renewable, domestically produced, and cost competitive with crude oil.

LS9 is the market leader for hydrocarbon biofuels and is rapidly commercializing and scaling up DesignerBiofuels™ products to meet market demands, including construction of a pilot facility leading to commercial availability. While initially focusing on fuels, LS9 will also develop sustainable industrial chemicals for specialty applications.

They are looking for the following for their South San Francisco location:

Current openings at LS9 are listed below. Please submit your resume stating qualifications and relevant experience to hr@ls9.com and include the job title in the subject line. We look forward to hearing from you.

Bioprocess/Engineering

Director, Bioprocess Development
Scientist, Fermentation
Scientist, Fermentation
Associate Scientist, Fermentation
Research Associate/Senior Research Associate, Fermentation
Downstream Recovery Scientist

Chemistry/Biochemistry

Biochemist / Bio-organic Chemist Scientist
Research Associate/Senior Research Associate, Biochemistry

Instrumentation

Automation Laboratory Specialist

Metabolic Engineering

Scientist, Metabolic Engineering
Associate Scientist, Microbiology
Senior Research Associate, Microbiology

Corporate Development

Corporate Planning Analyst

What LS9 is attempting is Holy Grail stuff, but what they are trying to do should be technically feasible. However, it won’t be easy and it’s going to take some very talented people.

Don’t forget that this is only one of the Khosla Ventures’ companies. There are numerous job opportunities there if you dig a little.

Accsys Technologies

As I have mentioned previously, I left the oil industry on March 1, 2008 to become the Engineering Director for Accsys Technologies. While we are not creating energy as was the case with the previous companies I described, we are saving energy and attacking the problem of rainforest destruction. Here is a brief summary of what appealed to me about the company and my desire to make a difference:

Growing concerns about the destruction of tropical rainforests, a declining world stock of high quality timber and increasingly restrictive government regulations regarding the use of wood treated using toxic chemicals have created an exceptional market opportunity for the Company. Accsys believes that its technology will transform the use of wood in existing applications where durability and dimensional stability are valued, both halting the decline in the use of wood in outdoor applications and substituting plastics and metals.

Wood acetylation is a process which increases the amount of ‘acetyl’ molecules in wood, thereby changing its physical properties. The process protects wood from rot by making it “inedible” to most micro-organisms and insects, without – unlike conventional treatments – making it toxic.

I think you can see why that might appeal to me – this technology enables a sustainable replacement for tropical hardwoods, and can replace plastics and metals in some applications.

We are working on getting our job opportunities posted, but for now I will just mention a few. We are filling a wide variety of positions at our plant in Arnhem, in the Netherlands. If you are a citizen of an EU country, I believe you are eligible to work in the Netherlands. We should soon have a complete listing of jobs at our Titan Wood site (Titan Wood is a subsidiary of Accsys), but some of the current vacancies in Arnhem include Process Control Engineer, Project Manager, Supply Chain Manager, and process and mechanical engineers.

We are also filling jobs in our new Dallas office that are global in nature. For Dallas we are looking for a Global Process Improvement Manager (reports to me), Global Procurement Manager (reports to CEO), and a Panel Products Manager (reports to Panel Products Director). These positions require travel (got to break a few eggs to make a cake) to places like the Netherlands and China (where we are building a large facility in Nanjing). Required qualifications for these jobs include an engineering or chemistry degree, 7-10 years of relevant experience, and a preference for an MBA. Further, I want my Global Process Improvement Manager to share my passion for making the world a better place.

For now, you may send a cover letter and your resume or CV to JOBSUSA “at” accoya “dot” info (edited to slow the spambots) for positions in the U.S., or JOBSEurope “at” accoya “dot” info for positions in Europe. You may want to indicate that you are responding to this essay, and then the resume may be circulated to me.

Conclusion

Rest assured that I am not going to get in the habit of using my writing as a platform for promoting my new company. I do think it is directly topical to what I write about, and I plan to do one post in the future about the technology. However, most of my posts will be as they have been in the past: Covering energy, sustainability, and environmental responsibility. I do plan to shift more in the direction of “problem solving”, and this post was one aspect of that. It is an attempt to bring together talent and passion with a critical need, and it also will hopefully provide needed job stability in a fragile economy.

I am really interested in writing more about promising technologies, especially those that haven’t received much attention, but I first have to figure out a way to manage this. I tend to get about 19 bad or unworkable ideas e-mailed to me for every 1 that shows promise. I can’t afford the time at present to work my way through that sort of volume (and some of the proposals I see are very extensive), so I will continue to focus for now on those that are already on the radar.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Accsys Technologies, Choren, Google, LS9, renewable diesel, Vinod Khosla | 180 Comments

You Have to Admire Google

These guys just seem like they are really trying hard to do the right thing:

Google’s Goal: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal

Mountain View, Calif. (November 27, 2007) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced a new strategic initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The newly created initiative, known as RE-C, will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies. RE-C is hiring engineers and energy experts to lead its research and development work, which will begin with a significant effort on solar thermal technology, and will also investigate enhanced geothermal systems and other areas. In 2008, Google expects to spend tens of millions on research and development and related investments in renewable energy. As part of its capital planning process, the company also anticipates investing hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns.

Lots more details at the link. Good stuff.

November 27, 2007 Posted by | Google, solar power | 21 Comments