Google leads in green… has now invested over $780M in clean energy

Google: Leading in crave for a green world

Google has emerged as one of the most aggressive clean power investors in 2011, and has now invested over $780 million into clean power projects and technologies, with $700 million of that being invested this year. The latest funding, announced Wednesday morning, has Google adding another $102 million into a wind farm being built in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.

Google has already put $55 million into that 1.5 GW wind farm, dubbed the Alta Wind Energy Center, which is being built by Terra-Gen Power. Google is structuring the deal in the same way as its previous investment in Alta Wind, and is again working with Citibank to create a leveraged lease, where Google and Citibank purchase part of the project, then lease it back to Terra-Gen, who will manage and operate it. Google now has invested $157 million into 270 MW of wind generation at Alta Wind.

Google says it’s not buying the electricity directly from the project, and says the returns are reason enough for the investment. The wind power will be sold to utility Southern California Edison under a power purchase agreement that was signed in 2006. But as I’ve written before (GigaOM Pro subscription required), giving Google more control over the energy it needs for its data centers could be a smart investment in the long run.

However, the amount of money that Google is investing in clean power is truly awe-inspiring (or maybe terribly shocking if you are a Google shareholder). Just earlier this month Google created a $280 million fund for solar installer SolarCity, its largest clean power investment to date, and its first in residential solar rooftops. Here’s a run down of what Google has backed in the clean power space:

  • SolarCity rooftop solar fund. Google has created a $280 million fund with home solar installer SolarCity. This is Google’s largest investment in clean power to date, and its first in home rooftop solar.
  • The world’s largest wind farm — in Oregon. Google is investing $100 million in the world’s largest wind farm, the 845 MW Shepherds Flat project under construction in Oregon.
  • North Dakota wind farm. Google is investing $38.8 million into 169.5 MW worth of wind projects developed by NextEra Energy Resources in North Dakota.
  • East Coast wind farm backbone. Google has invested part of the fund for an East Coast transmission line that is meant to link offshore wind farms, and which recently got an approved rate of return for the project at 12.59 percent.
  • Wind power from Iowa wind farm. Google’s first deal for its subsidiary Google Energy — which can buy and sell power on the wholesale electricity markets — plans to buy wind power from 114 MW of wind energy via a wind farm in Iowa owned by NextEra Energy Resources.
  • Wind power from Oklahoma wind farm. Google’s second deal via its subsidiary Google Energy is to buy 100 MW of power from a wind farm that’s under construction in Oklahoma by NextEra Energy Resources.
  • BrightSource’s solar thermal project. Google plans to invest $168 million into a solar thermal project being built by startup BrightSource Energy in California’s Mojave Desert.
  • German solar project. Google is investing €3.5 million ($5 million USD) into a solar photovoltaic farm in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany, which is near Berlin.
  • Greentech startups (these are small investments). Google (through a combo of Google Ventures and has invested in at least nine “greentech” startups, including battery maker ActaCell, electric vehicle maker Aptera, efficient car maker Next Autoworks, geothermal company Alta Rock, neighbor-to-neighbor car sharing company RelayRides, weather insurance company WeatherBill, smart grid company Silver Spring Networks, biofuel maker Cool Planet Biofuels, and efficient power gear conversion tech startup Transphorm.

By Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech