Google’s search for wind, solar pays off

E&E • Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013

After dominating the online arena, Google is starting to make a name for itself in the energy world.

With investments and large contracts in renewable energy projects topping $1 billion, Google is a central player in energy without being an actual energy company or financial institution.

In Texas, Google invested in a $200 million wind farm, and in California it threw down $168 million for a solar project.

Google’s stake now encompasses roughly 2 gigawatts of power generation, equal to the Hoover Dam, said Rick Needham, Google’s director of energy and sustainability.

And now, through its subsidiary, Google Energy, the company can sell wholesale electricity generated from its assets, as authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The reason Google’s interest in renewable energy hasn’t peaked is its online services, which require data centers that run on massive amounts of electricity. Google used 2.7 million megawatt-hours of power in 2011, while 243,000 households in Austin, Texas, use the same amount of electricity in a year.

“We’ve said this is a place where we can really have a double win,” Needham said. “We can have attractive returns but at the same time help get to that future that we want to see, which is one where clean energy is ubiquitous and it’s economic.”

Google’s contracts are raising eyebrows among utilities, but the Internet giant said it isn’t opposed to making deals as an energy customer as well (Zain Shauk, Houston Chronicle, July 8).