Google Inc. is ending the year with another clean energy investment together with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. by investing in four solar farms to provide enough electricity for about 13,000 homes inCalifornia.
Google’s $94 million is the internet giant’s first in grid-connected photovoltaic solar power investment. This latest investment brings Google’s total clean power investments to more than $915 million, which has been primarily in wind power, solar roofs, and a solar thermal power plant.
The exact amount provided by KKR was not disclosed but it was drawn from a $95-million pool managed by SunTap, according to the statement.
Three of the power plants will be complete early in 2012, with the fourth coming online later in the year, according to a joint statement from the companies. The projects can generate a total of 88 megawatts for Sacramento County, where they will be built by Recurrent Energy Inc., a unit of Sharp Corp. The facilities will be given premium rates from selling power to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District as part of a feed-in tariff program that began last year. Depending on the season, length of contract and start of production, the four solar farms could earn up to $10 cents per kilowatt hour under a 20-year power purchase agreement, based on rates as of January. Three of the Sacramento area projects will finish construction by early 2012, with one coming online a little later that year. They are expected to generate 160 million kilowatt-hours during the first year of operation, equivalent to offsetting the electricity consumption of more than 13,000 average U.S. homes.
The investment was made despite Google’s decision to shut down its Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal or RE<C, the company’s in-house research initiative and one of investment units launched back in 2007. Google, however, reassured back in November when RE<C was closed that renewable energy will continue to be part of company’s business priorities, namely on developing ways to source clean power for its data centers.
Google has invested in other forms of solar energy, including $168 million in BrightSource Energy Inc.’s Ivanpah solar thermal power plant currently being built also inCalifornialast April. It also committed $280 million in June to SolarCity Corp. and $75 million for Clean Power Finance Inc. in September to finance solar roof projects for more than 10,000 homeowners in the country. Its investment in SolarCity is its largest in renewable energy to date.
KKR, headquartered inNew York, has two other renewable energy investments – a Spanish solar-energy company T-Solar Global SA and in wind parks Sorgenia S.P.A. is developing inFrance, according to the statement.