Google announced that it has plunked $100 million into the Shepherds Flat wind farm in Oregon that will produce 845 megawatts of power when it goes live in 2012.
So far, Google has invested $350 million in power plants. Just a little while ago, it put $168 million into the $2 billion Ivanpah solar thermal power plant being built by BrightSource Energy.
Google proper is making these investments and not Google Ventures. Back in late 2009, the company first announced its intent to become a power plant investor. In some ways, the investments can be seen as a mix of altruism and self-interest. Renewable power plants require hundreds of millions to get off the ground and capital can still be tight. (It was even worse back in 2009.) Investing in these projects helps them get past the valley of death.
Meanwhile, Google consumes quite a bit of power. As the renewable industry spreads, Google will find it cheaper and cheaper to buy power from clean sources.
Prediction: expect to see the costs for financing renewable projects will slowly decline. Renewables are almost a guaranteed investment. In most cases, you're talking about building a power plant with established technology (solar panels or wind turbines from well-known manufacturers) that will sell to utilities that have been in business for decades under fixed term/fixed revenue contracts. Another plus: solar and wind farms rarely, if ever, get repossessed.
--President Obama will hold a town hall meeting on April 21 in Reno, Nevada at ElectraTherm, which makes a low-temperature waste heat recovery system. It's one of the many innovations occurring in waste heat, a relatively untapped source of energy. Nevada, like many other states, is also trying to build its renewable industry portfolio. The state has a strength in its geothermal resources. (And while visiting the Biggest Little City in the World, the President should visit the sports book at the Cal-Neva and have a chili dog with the local gentry.)
--Not everyone is so lucky. The $300 million Tenaway project, a large solar project in Washington, may be doomed because of a lack of funds.
--If you are in New York this Earth Day, Li-On Motors will show off the all-electric Inizio in Times Square. It's an all-electric sports car that can go zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds.