Internet giant Google has made a major investment in a batch of solar power plants situated in the sun-drenched American southwest, bringing its total commitment to renewable energy projects over the past several years to more than a billion US dollars.

In an official statement, Google announced that it would be participating in a $400 million deal with private equity firm KKR & Co Lp for the purchase of a total of six solar power plants to be built by California’s Recurrent Energy.

Recurrent Energy is a San-Francisco based developer of solar plants for the utilities sector, and is owned by Japanese conglomerate Sharp Co. The company is considered an outstanding choice for development of the project given the support it can access from its parent company, which was Japan’s biggest supplier of solar PV panels in 2012 and the sixth-largest supplier globally.

Google’s investment contribution is pegged at around $80 million, or approximately 20 per cent of the total value of the deal.


San Bernadino Solar Plant

Five of the power plants are located in California while the sixth is situated in the southwestern state of Arizona. The fleet of plants will generate a total of 106 megawatts of power – enough to supply approximately 17,000 households – and will sell electricity to local utilities companies under the long-term Power Purchase Agreement.

The plants are slated to commence operation in January of next year.

The deal significantly expands Google’s already considerable stake in clean energy, bringing the company’s investments in renewables since April 2010 to 14 in total, worth in excess of $1 billion. This investment sum translates into roughly two gigawatts of power, sufficient to cater to the needs of more than half a million households.

The deal follows hot on the heels of Google’s investment in the 265.7-megawatt Mount Signal Solar Plant in California’s Imperial County in October, which was undertaken in partnership with private equity firm Riverstone LLC.

Google is also heavily committed to wind power, increasingly turning to the clean energy source to supply electricity to its data centres. In June, Google inked a 10-year agreement to power its Hamina data center in Finland using electricity generated by the Swedish-built Maervaara wind farm, while in September it executed a deal with the Happy Hereford wind farm in the Texas city of Amarillo to supply power to its data centre just across the state border in Oklahoma’s Mayes County.

Google currently derives 33 per cent of its power from renewable sources, with ambitions of eventually becoming wholly dependent upon clean energy.