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Wells Fargo invests record $2.8B in environmental projects

Wells Fargo & Company invested $2.8 billion in environmental projects in 2011, the company’s largest yearly amount yet, bringing its total green investments to $11.7 billion. It's a sign that banks are opening up more financing for companies working on commercial energy-efficiency projects, renewable-energy projects and more.

Wells Fargo counts any business and projects with "direct positive impact on the environment" when adding up environmental loan commitments and tax equity financing.

The biggest chunk of Wells Fargo's 2011 environmental investments -- $1.5 billion -- went to green buildings in the form of loans to LEED-certified commercial buildings and community development projects

The company announced its commitment to environmental financing in 2005, and Wells Fargo's investments initially were heavily centered on buildings. But since then, it has expanded more into renewable energy and cleantech.

Last year, Wells Fargo put $450 million toward solar photovoltaic projects and $200 million towards wind projects.

Wells Fargo's past renewable investments include $266 million for Nevada Solar One, a 400-acre concentrated solar power plant capable of producing 64-75 megawatts of electricity.

An addition $150 million in 2011 went to cleantech companies in the form of loans from commercial and community banks.

Much of Wells Fargo's environmental financing has come in the last few years, as the company's investments rose to $3 billion in 2008.

At the time, Wells Fargo was aiming to provide at least $1 billion to environmental projects, and met that goal two years early, eventually ending 2008 with $5 billion invested or loaned.

Wells Fargo photo by Jose Antonio Perez /

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