Google invests $55 million in Alta Wind Energy Center

Google has invested US$55M into Terra-Gen Power's Alta Wind Energy Center. Renewable energy will help Google power its data centers into the future.

The site is currently under construction. Image Credit: Google.

Google is furthering its strategic commitment to the development of renewable energy, today announcing that it will contribute US$55 million in financing toward Terra-Gen Power’s Alta Wind Energy Center in Kern County, Calif.

The investment is part of a financial structure called leveraged lease, where Google and Citibank will acquire the project to lease it back to Terra-Gen. Terra-Gen will oversee the site’s day-to-day operations.

"We hope this structure encourages more investment by enabling other types of investors who might not typically consider wind projects," Rick Needham, director of green business operation, wrote in his company blog today.

In July, Terra-Gen announced that it had secured $1.2 billion round of construction financing to build four wind power projects. Alta Project I broke ground in March 2010.

The wind farm is being built in five different phases; its final capacity is planned to be around 1,550 MW. Note that the project’s initial design called for 3000 MW. Google’s $55M will go toward building the 102 MW Alta IV project.

The first four projects will generate an estimated 570 megawatts of capacity, and will use turbines manufactured by Vestas.

Google has invested heavily in renewable energy this year, and in April spent $100 million for a majority stake in the 845-megawatts Shepherds Flat wind power project in Oregon. Just days later it followed suit with a $168 million investment in BrightSource Energy’s 2,600 megawatts Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

While Google certainly deserves some accolades for being a good corporate citizen, its motivation isn't purely altruistic. It is addressing a major business problem: the expense of running its massive data centers. Energy is the biggest roadblock to data center build outs.

There is only so much that can be done to maximize energy usage and lower costs. Renewable energy is key to Google’s capacity to grow and provide new, more advanced services for years to come.

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