Google Writing More Checks for Renewable Energy

Another major renewable energy project is getting a cash infusion from Google.

Wind turbines clustered on hilltops near Tehachapi. (Photo: Sasha Khokha)

This time it’s Terra-Gen’s multi-phase wind project in Kern County, known as the Alta Wind Energy Center.

Google’s clean-tech investment arm will reportedly invest $55 million in the project, being built near Tehachapi.

Bill Weihl, Google’s green energy “czar,” told me in an interview last year that the company would support clean energy technologies with two main attributes; global scalability and the potential to become cost-competitive with coal power. In a 2010 interview with the New York Times, Weihl said he thought Google’s “culture of innovation” made it a good fit with renewable energy development.

Google has now made substantial investments in wind, solar and geothermal projects, in and around California, as well as bankrolling an ambitious scheme to build a connective spine connecting offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast.

Wind Picks Up Nationally, California Lags

A cluster of wind turbines in Tehachapi Pass marks California's early commitment to wind energy. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Wind power generators added nearly 40% to their total capacity in the US last year, as several states blew past California, according to a new report from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. According to the tally, four states now generate more than 10% of their total electricity (excluding exports) from wind.

Texas is the undisputed leader in the wind race, installing nearly 2,300 megawatts of capacity last year alone. Other Midwestern states such as Indiana, Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota have also been aggressive installers of wind farms. Continue reading

The Biggest Solar Project in the World

It’s just outside Phoenix. No, it’s in the Mojave. Wait, no, it’s in San Benito County.

A solar-thermal array uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight. (Image: BrightSource Energy)

On a media call this week in which executives and investors from the solar industry stumped for extensions to key federal incentives, I heard Fred Morse of Abengoa Solar say that the company’s Solana project in Gila Bend, Arizona, will be, as described on the project website, “the world’s largest solar plant.” Later that same day, an email came in from Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, (not in response) touting its Ivanpah project as “the largest solar project in the world.” Similar terms have been used to describe Solargen’s proposed 4,700-acre photovoltaic array in San Benito County. Continue reading