updated 1/17/2008 5:36:06 PM ET 2008-01-17T22:36:06

Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm is making more than $26 million in new grants and investments in organizations and companies devoted to causes that the Internet search leader believes will help make the world a better place.

The financial commitments announced Thursday are the largest made by Google.org since the Mountain View-based company launched its altruistic effort with $90 million in funding in 2005.

Pasadena-based eSolar Inc., a startup specializing in solar thermal power, is getting the most money from Google.org so far -- $10 million investment.

Google.org also is contributing toward fighting health and environmental threats, improving public services and supporting small businesses. The foundation also plans to back efforts to accelerate the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be recharged from a regular home socket.

The philanthropic arm evolved out of a commitment made by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they took their company public in August 2004.

The men, now both 34, committed to creating a foundation that "may eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems."

Google has pledged to donate 1 percent of its prized stock and 1 percent of its steadily rising profits to Google.org. Those assets are currently worth about $2 billion.

Other foundations are much larger, but Google.org has attracted tremendous attention because of its connection to one of the world's most powerful companies as well as an unusual structure allowing it to operate as a corporate division rather than a separate nonprofit entity.

The hybrid approach lets Google.org make money off investments like the one it made in eSolar, as well as lobby politicians.

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