Green

Google drops another $55M on Calif. wind farm

Google has invested $55 million in a wind energy farm in southern California that will generate up to 1,550 megawatts of power — bringing the search giant’s total investments in clean energy up to $400 million.

The farm is located in Tehachapi, Calif., “where the Mojave sands meet the Tehachapi Mountains,” according to a blog post by Google’s renewable energy guru Rick Needham. The deal does not involve a power purchase agreement — meaning Google is only investing money in the project because it believes it will generate some kind of financial return. The first several projects in the Alta Wind Energy Center are already complete and the wind farm is generating 720 megawatts of power.

This wind farm might bring California more in line with other states in terms of wind energy usage. Though the state is known for its leaning toward renewable energy, it only harnesses the third most wind energy in the United States at 3,179 megawatts of power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Texas is the largest provider of wind power, generating 10,135 megawatts of power, while Iowa is the second largest with 3,675 megawatts of power worth of wind turbines.

Google’s clean energy investments don’t come out of the company’s traditional investment arm, Google Ventures. Instead, the money comes from the company’s main treasury and is invested by the company’s Green Business Operations team. Google typically makes financial investments in clean energy projects that will generate some kind of return, but it has also made investments that have resulted in power purchase agreements — meaning Google is the company that is using the renewable energy to power its data centers.

“It’s from the founders, they have a keen interest in clean energy and making sure we’re moving toward a clean energy future,” Needham aid. “It bubbles up from the bottom too, there are a lot of people at Google sensitive to resource use — it’s part of our ‘don’t be evil’ strategy.”

Google is specifically investing in the Alta IV project — which will generate 102 megawatts as part of the Alta Wind Energy Project — as part of the deal. Google and Citi are purchasing the Alta IV Terra-Gen, the original manufacturer of the project, and will lease it back to Terra-Gen as part of the deal. Terra-Gen will operate and manage the wind farm under a long-term agreement.