Google Invests Heavily In Solar Panel Fund For Homes

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Search engine giant contributes $300m (£195m) to a fund to push solar panels onto residential roofs

Google continues its renewable commitment with the news it has invested $300m (£195m) in a $750m (£486m) SolarCity fund to finance the installation of solar panels onto the roof’s of residential properties.

This is not the first time that the search engine giant has made an investment in a solar energy fund for homes, and the company is also a notable user of renewable energy for its data centres.

Solar Funding

The news that Google had made the $300m investment, its largest renewable energy investment to date), was revealed by San Mateo, California-based SolarCity.

The solar panel installer said that the new fund would cover the upfront cost of solar panel installations for thousands of homeowners in 14 states in the United States and the District of Columbia.

It will also make it possible for homeowners to pay less for solar power than they pay for electricity generated by fossil fuels.

“We’re happy to support SolarCity’s mission to help families reduce their carbon footprint and energy costs,” said Sidd Mundra, Renewable Energy Principal at Google. “It’s good for the environment, good for families and also makes good business sense.”

The way it works is that the fund will cover the cost of the installation, solar panels and other equipment. The homeowner pays SolarCity for the electricity the solar panels produce, or monthly rent for the panels in the case of a lease.

solar_arraySolarCity explained in a blog post that this is a very similar arrangement that homeovers currently have with their local power provider, which traditionally finances the construction of a centralised power plant and delivery grid and then sells the power to you. The difference is that the SolarCity power is clean, and reportedly cheaper, too.

This is not the first time that Google has invested in funds to drive the uptake of solar panels. In June 2011, it invested $280 million (£179m) in a SolarCity fund to help facilitate solar-powered homes.

And then in September 2011, Google invested $75 million (£48m) in Clean Power Finance in order to provide solar panels on residential roofs.

Green Credentials

But Google’s commitment financially to clean energy is much greater than that. Indeed, the company is estimated to have contributed more than $1.8bn (£1.2bn) to renewable energy projects over the years.

For example it has invested in solar farms across the world including a solar photovoltaic power plant in Germany, as well a solar energy plant in California’s Mojave Desert.

It has also invested heavily in wind farms. In 2010 it invested £25 million into turbine farms in one of the most wind efficient areas of the US. It has also provided start-up funding for an ambitious transmission cable project designed to link wind farms along the north-east coast of the US. The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone is to pass down the US coast from New Jersey to Virginia, and is designed to link up to 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines, or enough energy to serve about 1.9 million households, according to Google.

And in 2011, it invested $100m (£70m) in the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm project in Oregon.

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