Google Continues Green Push With £171m Solar Fund

Google has set aside a £171m fund for a solar panel provider in yet another green investment

Google is certainly living up to its reputation as a green tech champion with the latest news that it is setting aside $280 million (£171m) to power more US homes with solar energy.

The search engine giant is creating a fund to help SolarCity install more solar panels. SolarCity provides homes and offices in America with solar panels that harness heat from the sun in order to power buildings.

The funding is Google’s biggest clean power infusion to date and pushes the company’s clean energy spending to more than $680 million (£414m).

Solar Power

Rick Needham, Google’s director of green business operations, said his colleague Michael Flaster has been using SolarCity panels to power his home since March.

Flaster expects to save $100 (£61) per month on his energy bills this year, and a whopping $16,000 (£9,754) over his 15-year lease, factoring in his lease payment and lower energy bills.

SolarCity, which has worked with seven different partners to finance $1.28 billion (£780m) in solar projects, covers installation and maintenance of the system over the life of the lease. Customers may prepay, or pay nothing up-front after which they make monthly solar lease payments.

SolarCity powers homes and offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The company counts thousands of home-owners in the United States, more than 75 schools and universities, Intel, eBay, as well as government agencies such as the US General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security among its customers.

Partnership Deal

As it does with so many of its product launches, Google is trying to eat its own dog food with this solar energy fund; the search-engine giant is partnering with SolarCity to offer the company’s services to Google employees at a discount rate.

“We think ‘distributed’ renewable energy (generated and used right at home) is a smart way to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to improve our power system since it helps avoid or alleviate distribution constraints on the traditional electricity grid,” Needham wrote in a blog post.

Google, a massive consumer of energy to power the thousands of computers that fuel its search and web services, is a big believer in clean energy innovation and has been quite busy on the clean energy front.

Green Champion

The company gained the right to buy and sell power on regulated wholesale markets from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2010, buying 100.8 megawatts of wind energy to power its new data centre in Oklahoma in April.

Google in May invested $55 million (£33m) into the Alta Wind Energy Centre, which will be able to power 450,000 homes and boost California’s wind power generation by 30 percent.

Google this year also invested $100 million (£61m) in the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, and put up $168 million (£102m) for a solar energy power plant BrightSource Energy is building in California’s Mojave Desert.

GigaOm has a more detailed list of Google’s power spending.