Going Green

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Going Green

Through Google Ventures (and Google.org), Google has invested in several green technology startups, including Aptera, which produces three-wheeled electric cars, efficient battery maker ActaCell, geothermal company Alta Rock and smart grid provider Silver Spring Networks, among others. Exact investment figures are not available. Google also invested $5 million in a solar photovoltaic farm in Germany. These investments, however valuable to the startups, are small fry in the grand scheme of Google's spending, as you'll soon see.

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Google pumped $38.8 million into NextEra Energy Resources wind farms in North Dakota, the company's first direct investment in a utility-scale renewable energy project. At the time, the wind farms were being built to generate 169.5 megawatts of power, or enough to power more than 55,000 homes.

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Atlantic Wind Connection

Google last October invested 37.5 percent of the equity (no set amount provided) in a plan to power offshore windmills by connecting undersea cables along the Atlantic coastline. This Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone will span 350 miles of the coast from New Jersey to Virginia to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines.

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Google was quiet on the green infusion front for several months, but was actually girding for major expenditure during this period. Google April 11 dropped $168 million into a solar energy power plant BrightSource Energy is building in California's Mojave Desert, which was easily the search engine's largest investment in clean energy at the time. When its construction is complete in 2013, BrightSource's Ivanpah Power Tower will be roughly 450 feet tall and will generate 392 gross megawatts of clean solar energy.

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Shepherds Flat

Google one week later boosted its total clean energy spend to $350 million after pumping $100 million into the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm. The "me" in the picture is Rick Needham, Google's director of Green Business Operations. Shepherds Flat should produce 845 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power more than 235,000 homes, when it is completed in 2012.

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Alta Wind

Google May 24 invested a more modest $55 million in the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) in California, pushing the company's clean power cash infusion to $400 million. AWEC will be able to power 450,000 homes and boost California's wind power generation by 30 percent when it's complete.

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Google June 14 earmarked $280 million to power homes with solar energy for SolarCity, which outfits homes and offices with solar panels. The funding, Google's biggest clean power infusion to date, boosted the company's clean energy spending to more than $680 million. See the panels at work in this picture.

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Alta Redux

Google liked its investment in California's Alta Wind Energy Center so much that it turned around and dropped $102 million more on top of its $55 million in investments, pushing the search engine's clean energy spend past the $780 million mark. See it here: earth, windmills and blue sky.

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Buying Time

We mentioned earlier that Google secured the right to buy and sell power. The company has exercised that right twice to date. In July 2010, Google purchased 114 megawatts of clean energy at a predetermined rate for 20 years from NextEra Energy Resources in Iowa.

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Oklahoma Energy Purchase

For its second power purchase, Google this past April acquired 100.8 megawatts of wind generation for the next 20 years from NextEra's Minco II facility in Oklahoma.

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