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Google invests $55 million in Kern County wind farm


Google must really like its new renewable energy hat, because the company has plunked down an additional $55 million on a major wind project.

The Internet search giant said it is partnering with Citibank, with each shelling out $55 million to help finance part of the Alta Wind Energy Center, one of the largest wind installations in the world.

When complete, the project in the Tehachapi Mountains will generate 1.5 gigawatts, enough to power 450,000 homes through Southern California Edison. The installation will help boost wind jobs in the state by 20% while also feeding more than $1.2 billion into the local Kern County economy, according to developers.

Alta is being built in phases. The first five segments are already generating 720 megawatts of energy. Another 300 megawatts of capacity is expected to go online by the end of the year.

Google doesn’t plan to buy the electricity. Instead, along with Citibank, it will buy the fourth phase of the project, known as Alta IV, and lease it back to developer Terra-Gen to operate over a long-term contract. The so-called leveraged lease is popular in the solar industry.

With the investment, Google said it has pumped more than $400 million into clean energy projects, including an offshore wind transmission project on the East Coast and a wind farm in Oregon. The company has also plunged $168 million into BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar installation.


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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Vestas landed a huge order for turbines for the Alta project. Credit: Vestas

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