Google Warms to Solar Energy With $75M Investment
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Sept. 27 plunked down $75 million to provide solar panels on residential roofs for up to 3,000 homeowners, marking the company's second investment in solar energy for homes.
Google will seed partner Clean Power Finance with money to contract with third-party installers, such as American Vision Solar, SunLogic and California Solar Systems, to put solar panels into homes.
Solar installers contract with Clean Power Finance to access consumer financing from investors, such as Google. The installer builds the system, which is owned by the investor (Google, for this instance).
Homeowners then make monthly payments for the system, often for less than that of traditional, electric-powered energy. Clean Power Finance will bill consumers and maintain the solar panels.
As a company that employs dozens of data centers and hundreds of thousands of server computers to fuel Web searches and cloud-based applications all over the world, Google is particularly sensitive to its energy consumption and carbon footprint.
The search engine provider has been on quite the clean power investment spree in 2011, dropping hundreds of millions of dollars this year alone to boost its total green energy spend to more than $850 million. For the second time this year, Google is turning its attention to solar-powered panels to heat and provide power to homes.
Though far from science fiction, solar-powered panels have lagged in adoption, partly from the hefty upfront cost they incur for homeowners.
Moreover, homeowners who want to use solar panels can't always find financing for them. Google, which uses a 1.6 MW rooftop solar installation at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, invested $280 million in solar installer SolarCity to help facilitate solar-powered homes.
"As we said when we made our first residential solar investment, we think it makes a lot of sense to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology-rooftop solar panels-to generate electricity right where you need it at home," said Rick Needham, director of green business operations.
"It greens our energy mix by using existing roof space while avoiding transmission constraints, and it can be cheaper than drawing electricity from the traditional grid."
This isn't the first time Google has pumped money into Clean Power Finance. The company's Google Ventures arm was among the investors in a $25 million funding round for the startup that was led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.