Google Going Green with Largest Solar Energy Investment

April 12, 2011 / William Thomson, Green Homes Expert

Despite several privacy issues implicating the search giant every now and then, Google still has time and energy to come up with some eco-friendly endeavors as it has officially announced its $168 million solar energy investment for a power plant in Mojave Desert, California.

Google Going Green with Largest Solar Energy Investment

The solar energy project called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is developed by BrightSource Energy Inc., and is the second eco-friendly project in which Google Inc. invested following the Wind Power Superhighway in October 2010, an offshore energy transmission that enhances the supply of clean power available to the Mid-Atlantic region.

The 350-mile Atlantic Wind Connection that extends from off the coast of New Jersey to off the coast of Virginia is expected to provide 6,000MW of wind power. Other investors that poured in equally large sums are the renewable energy investment firm Good Energies, and the Japanese trading company, Marubeni Corporation.

The solar energy plant in Mojave Desert is likewise expected to generate 392 gross MW of electricity. According to Google, “that’s the equivalent of taking more than 90,000 cars off the road over the lifetime of the plant, projected to be more than 25 years.”

In a blog post, Google’s green business operations director Rick Needham said the solar energy investment is its largest to date and that its total investments for the clean energy sector has now reached $250 million.

“The investment makes business sense and will help ensure that one of the world’s largest solar energy projects is completed,” he said.

Needham explained that the project is based on a simple idea, though it has only been demonstrated in the USA and abroad at a smaller scale. A total of 346,000 fields of mirrors mounted on 173,000 heliostats two apiece will be used to concentrate sun rays on a solar receiver on top of an approximately 450 feet tall tower.

“The solar receiver generates steam, which then spins a traditional turbine and generator to make electricity,” Needham said.

He noted that the Ivanpah Power Tower is efficient because the heliostats focus a huge amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Ivanpah is also the largest solar energy investment in the world so far. It has further invited investments from the NRG, in addition to the clean energy technology loan guarantees provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project is being constructed by the engineering firm Bechtel, which started with Ivanpah on October last year and aims to complete it by 2013.

Similarly, Google Inc. has invested $5 million in a solar power plant that sits on a 116-acre land area near Berlin. The solar energy project is expected to produce 18.7-MW of electricity for the estimated 5,000 homes in Germany.

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