Google Edges Closer To California's Clean Energy Heartland

Most people know Google as the leading Internet search engine, but the high-tech company is investing heavily in renewable energy in California and other places. Just weeks after announcing a big investment in a Mojave Desert solar farm, Google now has placed a $55 million bet on a wind farm in Tehachapi - just off our southern tip.

The company is teaming up with Citibank to buy a part of the Alta Wind Energy Center, one of the largest wind installations in the world, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a press release, Google says its latest outlay - which ups its total investment in renewable energy to $400 million - could help usher in a new energy future.

Google says its experience with solar energy shows that renewable power makes good business sense. Read more about that here.

Google consumes a ton of power through data centers, and says it wants to develop energy from renewable sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The Tehachapi project had other attributes as well.

"As part of the new 4,500 MW Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, AWEC uses some of the first transmission lines developed specifically to transport renewable energy from remote, resource-rich areas (like the Mojave) to major population centers."

Google also was drawn to the innovative leverage lease financing structure. "...Google and Citi are purchasing the Alta IV project and will lease it back to Terra-Gen, who will manage and operate the wind projects under long-term agreements. We hope this structure encourages more investment by enabling other types of investors who might not typically consider wind projects."

Here is a breakdown of Google's other green investments (minus the Tehachapi project).

The Tehachapi deal brings Google tantalizingly close to the resource-rich and geographically-blessed San Joaquin Valley, which we believe could be a center of renewable energy.

We have the sun (which we'll probably start to notice in earnest in a few weeks), thousands of acres of flat land reasonably free of environmental issues, access to the transmission grid, and a rich agricultural heritage that lays the foundation for the possible development of biofuels.

The Valley's farmers already are leaders in renewable energy - check out this story of a Hanford dairy that is using solar to cut its power use 75% - and will likely boost those efforts as the sustainability movement grabs hold.

Is it unrealistic to think that Google could someday invest in the Valley - and provide an economic spark to a region that is primed for better days?

Image of Alta Wind Energy Center by