Google Adds $102M to Alta Wind Energy Investment

Google has tacked on $102 million to fund the Alta Wind Energy Center wind energy project in the Mojave Desert. Google has pumped $780 million into clean energy this year.

Recognizing the growing value of wind power as a clean energy source, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) upped its investment in the Alta Wind Energy Center by $102 million, bringing its funding for the project to $157 million.

Google's clean power investments now top $780 million, with $700 million of that funding coming in 2011 alone. That is easily the most plunked down in the sector by any high-tech company.

The search engine in May put $55 million into AWEC's 101-megawatt Alta IV project. The new investment will finance the 168MW Alta V project. AWEC lies in Tehachapi, Calif., in the vast Mojave Desert.

Citibank is matching Google's $102 million investment in Alta V, just as it shadowed Google's $55 million infusion in Alta IV.

When AWEC is complete, it should create 1,550MW of energy, or enough to juice 450,000 homes.

"We are particularly excited about AWEC because it will be one of the largest wind energy centers in the world, with over 1GW [1 gigawatt] of production scheduled to be online by the end of the year and 1,550MW when fully completed," said Rick Needham, Google's director of green business operations.

Energy produced at AWEC will be sold to Southern California Edison under a power purchase agreement signed with developer Terra-Gen Power. Neither Google nor Cit will purchase any of the energy produced at Alta V.

Google and Citibank will own Alta V and lease it back to Terra-Gen, which will manage and operate both projects.

Google, a massive consumer of energy to power the thousands of computers that fuel its search and Web services, is a big believer in the clean energy movement.

Google June 14 invested $280 million in a project to power more homes with solar energy; this is Google's biggest, single clean-power capital infusion to date.

The company gained the right to buy and sell power on regulated wholesale markets from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2010, buying 100.8 megawatts of wind energy to power its new data center in Oklahoma in April.

Google this year also invested $100 million in the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, and put up $168 million for a solar energy power plant BrightSource Energy is building in California's Mojave Desert. GigaOm has a more detailed list of Google's power spending.