Search giant Google will begin constructing the nation’s largest solar electricity system on its Mountain View campus, the company said today.

Panels will be built for Google’s entire Mountain View campus, decking the roofs of its four main buildings plus two that are nearby. With a total capacity of 1.6 megawatts • enough to supply 1,000 average California homes • the Google system will be the largest solar installation on any U.S. corporate campus, and will be among the five largest installations in in the world.

It easily exceeds Microsoft’s 480-kilowatt solar panel system in Mountain View, unveiled in April, not far Google’s campus.

Andrew Beebe(EI), David Radcliffe(Google)

Google signed the contract with start-up Energy Innovations in Pasadena. That company helped design the project, and integrate its various components. The 9,212 solar panels used will be provided by Sharp Electronics. A majority will be placed on the rooftops. Other panels have been built on structures in Google parking lots that will, as a byproduct, provide shaded parking. The solar energy will be used to power several of Google’s Mountain View office facilities, and will make up about 30 percent of the Googleplex’s peak energy needs.

Energy Innovations won a competitive bid for the Google project, based on a combination of factors including price, cultural fit with Google’s environmental goals and willingness to question prevailing norms with innovative technology, David Radcliffe, VP of Real Estate for Google, told VentureBeat today.

To be clear, Google will not be using Energy Innovation’s “concentration” technology. EI is developing solar panels that track the sun as it moves, with mirrors that concentrate the sunlight for the photovoltaic process, but that is not part of the Google deal.

The contract win by Energy Innovations follows an announcement today by a competing southern California firm, Practical Instruments, that it had raised $8 million in venture backing. That company’s founder, Brad Hines, said he left Energy Innovations two years ago because it was having difficulty selling its unconventionally shaped panels. (Installers are used to the plat panel shapes produced by the likes of Sharp, SolarPower and others — the type you see in images here).

The project is completed in spring. More information is here.

Below is a 3D rendering of the project, created using Google Earth and Sketch Up:

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.