In its latest renewable energy buy, Google announced on September 17 that it will purchase the entire 240-megawatt output of the Happy Hereford wind farm outside Amarillo, Texas. The agreement is Google’s largest clean power purchase to date and brings the data giant’s wind energy portfolio to more than 570 MW – enough to power approximately 170,000 homes, the company said.
The wind farm, which is expected to begin producing energy in late 2014, is being developed by Chermac Energy – a small, Native American-owned company based in Oklahoma. Once completed, Happy Hereford will provide energy to the regional power grid that serves Google’s Mayes County, Okla. data center.
Due to regulations, the data center can’t consume purchased wind power directly. Similar to its earlier commitments in Iowa and Oklahoma, Google will sell clean energy to the local wholesale market, retire the renewable energy credits and apply additional credits to lower its carbon footprint – a structure the company says is a financially sound and logistically savvy way to provide local communities with clean power and shrink its own environmental impact.
The move adds to the growing list of Google-backed alternative energy projects. It has already invested more than $600 million in solar energy and funded a range of renewable energy and crisis response projects through its tech-focused philanthropic division Google.org. The company also partnered up with SolarCity to offer 8,000 homeowners the option to go solar through leasing or power purchase agreements and launched its RechargeIT program to accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.
All totaled, Google’s renewable energy commitments have surpassed $1 billion, with a nameplate capacity of more than 2 GW. Expected to generate more than 5 billion kilowatt-hours annually, these commitments include some of the largest in the U.S. – most notably the Atlantic Wind Connection, a backbone for wind transmission off the Mid-Atlantic coast, Shepherd’s Flat, one of the world’s largest wind farms located in Arlington, Ore., and Ivanpah, a 377 MW solar project in California developed in partnership with BrightSource.
It’s all part of the tech giant’s RE<C (Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal) initiative, which aims to drive down the cost of renewable energy to the point that it becomes cheaper than energy from coal. Although it may have a long way to go in scaling down clean power, Google’s continuing commitment to renewable energy is surely bolstered by the Texas purchase.
Image credit: shock264, Flickr
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Mary also contributes to Earth911; her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.