10 clean energy investments from Google
The past few years has seen Google embark on an ambitous program of investment in the renewables space, the most recent announcement seeing Google investing $200 million in a Texas wind farm. So where else has Google been putting its money?
Spinning Spur Wind Farm: West Texas wind
In December 2012, Google invested approximately $200 million in a 161 MW wind farm in Oldham County, Texas. The project, which uses 70 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, has been contracted to SPS, a utility that primarily serves Texas and New Mexico. EDF Renewable Energy built the project and will remain the manager and an owner alongside Google.
Rippey Wind Farm: wind power in Iowa
Google invested $75 million in a 50 MW wind farm in Rippey, a small town in Greene County, Iowa. The wind farm, developed by RPM Access, uses turbines produced by Nordex USA at its Jonesboro, Arkansas facility. The energy produced by the wind farm has been contracted to the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, an Iowa-based utility that will deliver the energy to local consumers.
Recurrent Energy: Large-scale solar PV projects in California
A $94 million investment was made in a portfolio of four solar photovoltaic (PV) projects being built by Recurrent Energy near Sacramento, California. These projects have a total capacity of 88 MW— and the energy produced is already contracted for 20 years with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the first projects to be built under their feed-in tariff program (FIT) to help green the grid for Sacramento-area residents.
Clean Power Finance: Financing for rooftop solar
Google invested $75 million to create a fund with Clean Power Finance (CPF) that will help up to 3,000 homeowners go solar. Purchasing a solar system is a major home improvement, but the upfront cost has historically been one of the biggest barriers for homeowners. Clean Power Finance's open platform connects installers with investors to provide financing to homeowners. It's an innovative and scalable model that makes business sense, and has the potential to lower costs and accelerate adoption of solar energy.
SolarCity: Solar for US residential rooftops
In what Google says is the largest deal of its kind to date, it invested $280 million in a SolarCity fund to help provide innovative financing for residential solar projects. SolarCity is a full service solar systems provider offering the option for consumers to go solar through a solar lease or power purchase agreements. SolarCity works with a customer to design a solar system for their home. Investors like Google purchase the system up front and, in return, receive a portion of lease payments from the homeowner along with Solar City. This kind of innovative financing removes a major adoption barrier for homeowners—the upfront cash required for systems—and makes solar power accessible to homeowners who would otherwise not consider it. SolarCity has completed or is currently building out more than 15,000 residential solar systems, the most of any company in the US.
BrightSource: Concentrated solar power at scale
In 2008, Google invested $10 million in startup company BrightSource Energy via Google.org. It subsequently invested another $168 million into their first utility-scale solar project - Ivanpah - in California’s Mojave Desert. BrightSource specializes in “power towers"— solar thermal technology that uses heliostats, or sun-tracking mirrors, to focus solar energy onto a tower-mounted receiver. The receiver produces high pressure steam which, in turn, spins a traditional turbine generator to make electricity. Ivanpah will produce 377 MW (net) of solar power once it is up and running in 2013, and is expected to supply Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison with energy equivalent to that used in 140,000 homes in Central and Southern California. This will be the first large scale power tower project operating efficiently at high temperatures and pressures, demonstrating a critical step for the technology on a path to reliable, low cost, clean power.
Atlantic Wind Connection: A superhighway for clean energy transmission
Google has invested a 37.5 percent equity stake in the critical early-stage development of the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone, a project to build a superhighway transmission infrastructure off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Once completed, the AWC backbone will stretch 250 miles along the coast from New Jersey to Virginia, enabling the connection of up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind power. The project helps states meet their renewable energy goals and standards using the most abundant local resource. The Mid-Atlantic region has a vast offshore wind resource capable of powering more than 60,000 MW of wind turbines in shallow waters that allow wind turbines to be installed 10-15 miles offshore.
Alta Wind Energy Center: Harnessing the winds of the Mojave
The wind resource is most impressive where the Mojave sands meet the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California, making it a great spot for wind development. Google has invested a total of $157 million in two projects totalling 270 MW at the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC). This investment used a leveraged lease—a financial structure new to wind but one which provides advantages to both developers and investors. The project will also use some of the first transmission lines being developed specifically to transport renewable energy from remote, resource-rich areas to major population centers. The power will be delivered to Southern California Edison under long-term agreements with the first five Alta projects, totaling 720 MW, already operational. AWEC will reportedly boost California’s wind energy production by 30% and help the state meet its ambitious renewable energy mandate of 33% clean power generation by 2020.
Shepherd’s Flat: One of the world’s largest wind farms
Located in Arlington, Oregon, Shepherd’s Flat is anticipated to be one of the world’s largest wind farm at 845 MW. Google has invested $100 million in the farm, which will also reportedly be the largest to deploy, at scale, permanent magnet generators, a state-of-the-art turbine technology used to increase efficiency and reliability and ultimately lower the cost of wind energy. The project will also benefit the region by helping California meet its aggressive renewable energy goals. The electricity produced at Shepherds Flat will be sold under long-term agreements to Southern California Edison.
Peace Garden wind farms: More financing for wind
Google’s first investment in a utility-scale renewable energy project was $38.8 million in two wind farms in North Dakota that generate 169.5 MW of power. The projects were built by NextEra Energy Resources, which uses advanced wind turbine technology and monitoring and control systems to provide one of the lowest-cost sources of renewable energy in existence today.
Photovoltaics in Germany
In 2011, Google made its first international investment of €3.5 million (approximately $5 million for a 49 percent equity stake in the project) in a recently completed solar facility in Brandenburg, Germany. The plant, one of the largest in Germany, has peak capacity of 18.65 MW and will generate as much energy as that used in more than 5,000 homes. Germany has a strong framework for renewable energy and is home to many leading-edge technology companies in the sector. More than 70 percent of the solar modules used in the project were produced by German manufacturers.
Posted 31/01/2013 by David Hopwood
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