Google and Nevada utility NV Energy have joined up on an energy supply agreement to power an under-construction data center outside Las Vegas, with future capacity that rivals the largest corporate solar power-purchase agreement announced to date in the U.S.
NV Energy plans to procure 350 megawatts of solar and between 250 and 280 megawatts of storage to serve the Google facility in Henderson, Nevada. The utility said it will use “a new renewable facility, or a small portfolio of facilities [comprising] solar and collocated battery energy storage,” according to a December regulatory filing. NV Energy plans to supply Google with renewables purchases or its own excess generation until projects are complete.
The utility intends to amend its integrated resource plan to gain approval for the projects, a move that’s “straight-up unique,” said Dan Finn-Foley, director of storage research at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
On its own, the solar capacity appears tied for the largest corporate solar deal signed so far in the U.S. But the project’s storage component is perhaps its most significant element. The capacity alone — which rivals other recent utility deals, including from NV Energy itself — is “big news,” said Finn-Foley. What's more, the incorporation of storage indicates a growing interest among large corporate buyers to shape clean electricity purchases to round-the-clock demand.
"You can draw a straight line between Google's aspiration for 100 percent load-following renewable energy and energy storage's inclusion in this agreement," said Finn-Foley.
While large-scale renewables procurements have become commonplace for many corporations — now accounting for more than 15 percent of the total utility-scale solar pipeline — buyer requirements are becoming more sophisticated. Many want to match their real-time consumption to 100 percent renewables; Google has so far done so only on an annual basis.*
If others follow, Finn-Foley said it would represent a “sea change in how corporations approach renewable energy.”
“Corporations have long used wind or solar to go ‘100 percent green,’ but there is a new effort to actually time-match consumption rather than just buying an offsetting amount of kilowatt-hours,” said Finn-Foley.
“The upside for the storage industry is dramatic if other corporations start aiming for the bar Google is setting,” he added. “If this trend takes off among corporations…then it will do for storage what the first phase of corporate PPAs did for solar and wind.”
But first, the agreement will need to win approval from state regulators. And at the same time, Google employees are pushing the tech giant to raise the bar even higher: The company is still facing blowback over what some employees categorize as support for climate denial that undercuts Google’s environmental efforts, such as its achievement of 100 percent renewables.
The Nevada deal follows Google’s recent acquisition of a record-making 1.6-gigawatt renewables portfolio that Google called the biggest corporate renewables purchase in history. Google did not respond to questions about how the Nevada agreement fits into the company’s larger renewables strategy.
*Correction: this article originally stated Google had matched its electricity demand with 100 percent renewables. It has done so on an annual basis.