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Google Powers Up Alt-Energy Investments

by Kent Bernhard, Jr, May 26, 2011

Estimates suggest that Google's data centers may consume as much as 300 megawatts of power.  This graphic displays what 300 megawatts can run. Google is out to prove it can do more than just power search. With $400 million invested in clean-energy projects -- the latest being a $55 million California wind farm -- it wants to juice parts of the nation.

Google seems to be trying to make us think GE stands for Google Energy.

The latest energy investment play from the search and advertising company is a plan it announced Tuesday to plunk down $55 million to help finance Terra-Gen Power's Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) wind farm in California's Tehachapi Mountains. Citigroup Inc. is also putting up funds for the farm.

Google is based in Mountain View, California, and its local server farms suck up huge amounts of power. The Tehachapi project is close enough to home base to help provide power for them.

But the company is also pouring big money into renewable energy across the United States and the globe, spending over the past few months almost as if it were itself an energy company rather than a tech and media giant.

And these aren't all small, feel-good, projects, with at least some of them pushing the envelope. They're big, ambitious investments in bold plans that will generate or transmit huge amounts of electricity. Examples include:

In addition, Google has one of the largest solar arrays around at its Bay Area headquarters as it experiments with wringing more efficiency from its data centers.

"With this [Terra-Gen Power] deal, we've now invested more than $400 million in the clean-energy sector. We hope AWEC's success, with its unique deal structure and renewable-energy transmission, encourages more financing and development of renewables that will usher in a new energy future," Rick Needham, Google's Green Business Operations Manager, wrote in a blog post.

Google's motivations aren't exactly to get into the energy business to make a lot more money. The company is more concerned with offsetting the cost and pollution involved in its massive power usage.

Still, you don't see Apple or Facebook making similar moves.

Kent Bernhard, Jr
Google Powers Up Alt-Energy Investments, May 26, 2011

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