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Google invests $94 million in utility-scale solar

On December 3, Google announced a $94 million investment in four large-scale PV projects near Sacramento, California.

The addition of these installations, built by Recurrent Energy, brings Google’s portfolio of investment into clean energy up to $915 million.

Digital Rendering of Recurrent Energy Project in California. Photo Credit: Recurrent Energy

Back in September, Google and Clean Power Finance came together to develop financing options for residential PV systems. But this investment is Google’s first foray into utility-scale PV, investing in power plants that will generate energy for the grid.

“We believe investing in the renewable energy sector makes business sense and hope clean energy projects continue to attract new sources of capital to help the world move towards a more sustainable energy future,” wrote Axel Martinez, Google’s Assistant Treasurer, in a blog post.

Investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) is the third party in these projects. KKR has invested in other renewable energy projects abroad, but this is their first renewable energy investment in the U.S.

“The investment is a clear demonstration of solar’s ability to attract private capital from well-established investors like Google and KKR,” said Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy. “This transaction provides an example of the direction solar is headed as a viable, mainstream part of our energy economy.”

Projected to be complete in 2012, the plants will have a capacity of 88 MW, enough energy to power 13,000 homes. The energy is contracted to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) for 20 years, and is the first project in SMUD’s new feed-in tariff program.

This news comes less than a month after Google announced plans to halt it’s Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C) initiative. The RE<C project included millions of dollars in solar technology R&D, and was taken by some as a sign of wavering enthusiasm for solar energy.


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