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$94M investment in solar power plants caps off Google's year

Google has made one last renewable energy investment in 2011: $94 million towards solar power plants in Sacramento, California.
Written by Matt Weinberger, Contributor

In all the pre-holiday shuffle, we missed last week's announcement that Google was ending 2011 with another $94 million investment in solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, bringing the search giant to a total of $915 spent on clean energy initiatives. But where most of Google's solar PV initiatives have focused on power for individual homes, it's now taking the broader view by funding solar plant projects that provide energy to the whole grid.

According to Google's official blog entry, it's working alongside global investment firm KKR and solar developer Recurrent Energy. Google's $94 million is an equity investment, with KKR-founded venture SunTap Energy providing the rest. It's KKR's first entry into the US renewable energy market, to boot.

When complete, the Google-funded solar plant projects will provide "88 MW, equivalent to the electricity consumed by more than 13,000 homes," the company claims in that same blog entry.

Google's already inked a contract with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to provide power to Sacramento-area locals for twenty years. SMUD, for its part, recently launched a feed-in tariff program (FIT) to help make its own grid more green. These new solar PV plants are the first built under that program.

As mentioned above, the last time Google announced a solar initiative, it was as part of a $75 million program to make the technology affordable for homeowners. And before that, Google had invested $102 million into wind power facilities.

Google may have put a stop a significant part of its internal renewable energy research, but it's clear that the 'Plex still has green on its collective mind.

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