Google said this week that it is making a $94-million equity investment in four solar photovoltaic installations being constructed by Recurrent Energy for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The projects near Galt and Elk Grove in southern Sacramento County will provide 88 megawatts of power to the utility.
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP is joining Google and Recurrent Energy in the deal by providing the balance of the equity investment through its new venture, SunTap Energy, which KKR formed to invest in U.S solar projects.
The investment in the Sacramento area installations is a first for KKR and a first for Google, which previously had concentrated on projects to bring solar power to the rooftops of homes rather than to the grid.
Google said its green power investment portfolio now totals $914 million.
Just a month ago, the company said it is ending its RE<C project to make renewable energy cheaper than coal. The move was one of several that Google Senior Vice President Urs Hölzle described as an "off-season spring cleaning" that would shut down "a number of products which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for."
In a blog post about the company's decision, Hölzle noted that the Google engineering team on the RE<C project had focused on researching improvements to solar power technology and the company published the results of the group's work so that others can use it to advance the field. "At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level," Hölzle wrote. "We will continue our work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy..."
Coincidentally, Google's announcement of its latest PV investment followed news that former energy czar Bill Weihl is joining Facebook as it steps up its sustainability efforts.
Earlier this month, Facebook committed to a five-step plan for greening its data centers that includes making renewable energy a power preference. By making the pledge, Facebook quelled Greenpeace's longstanding campaign against the social media giant and its reliance on coal-fired power.
Image courtesy of Recurrent Energy.