Google getting close to $1B in clean energy projects

Google’s investments in clean energy projects is climbing, and getting close to the $1 billion mark. On Tuesday the search engine giant announced that it has made yet another $94 million investment into four solar panel projects, which are being built by Recurrent Energy close to Sacramento, Calif. This latest investment brings Google’s clean power investments to more than $915 million.

The news comes despite Google’s decision to shut down its own in-house research initiative and equity investing focus on lowering the cost of clean power, called Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal, or RE<C, which it launched back in 2007. But as I pointed out, Google’s investment in clean power projects — like its announcement today — and its development of energy efficiency data center technology have been far more important than the RE<C program.

The solar farms near Sacramento are Google’s first investment in utility-scale grid-connected solar panel projects, and Google made the investment into the 88 MW of solar alongside investment firm KKR and Recurrent Energy. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District will buy the power.

Here are Google’s clean power investments to date, in addition to these new solar PV plants near Sacramento:

  • 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.
  • Clean Power Finance. Google invested $75 million into a solar fund for startup Clean Power Finance. Clean Power Finance will use the money to support solar rooftop projects by third party installers.
  • 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.