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Google Invests $145 Million to Turn an Old Gas Field Into a Solar Plant

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Data & Technology
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Last week, Google invested $145 million in an 82 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Kern County, California. The solar power plant, called the Regulus project, is being developed by SunEdison on top of an old oil and gas field about 11 miles southeast of Bakersfield, California. It will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes. The 743-acre site went from 30 oil wells to five as it exhausted its fossil fuel reserves.

The solar project is creating 650 jobs in Kern County, and will help meet California’s renewables portfolio standard of 33 percent of the total electricity load coming from renewable energy by 2020. The project, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, is expected to generate $6.1 million in property tax revenue and $25.4 million in sales and use tax revenue for the county over its 20-year contracted life. The power company, Southern California Edison (SCE), is under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with SunEdison to contract the power produced.

Google has invested more than $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects for a total of 2.5 gigawatts (GW). Some of the tech giant's other investments are also in California, including Mount Signal Solar, a 265.7 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in Imperial County. Mount Signal Solar will generate enough energy to power 80,000 homes. San Diego Gas & Electric has a PPA with SunEdison to contract the power produced from the solar plant. Google’s other renewable energy investments in California include:


  • Recurrent Energy, an 88 MW solar PV project being built near Sacramento, California, will generate enough energy to power over 13,000 homes. Sacramento Municipal Utility District has a 20-year PPA with Recurrent Energy, the company building the solar project.

  • BrightSource, a 377 MW solar power project in the Mojave Desert, will generate enough energy to power 140,000 homes. Both Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and SCE have PPAs with BrightSource energy.

  • Alta Wind Energy Center, a 270 MW wind farm in the Mojave Desert, will contract energy to SCE.

(Click here for more information about Google's renewable energy investments.)

SunEdison has other solar projects in Kern County

SunEdison has three other solar power projects in Kern County, which is located in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Adobe is one of those other projects: It's a 26 MW solar PV project located 19 miles south of Bakersfield. Southern California Edison has a 20-year PPA with SunEdison to contract the energy produced. Adobe will provide enough energy to power 4,500 homes, create over 500 full-time equivalent employee years, generate $1.3 million in property tax and $9.7 million in sales and use tax revenue for the county over its 20-year contracted life.

Isis Solar, a 26 MW solar PV plant near the Kings County border, is located near a PG&E substation where it will interconnect to the utility grid. It will create about 90 jobs during its construction. Orion 1-2, a 26 MW solar PV plant about 11 miles southeast of Bakersfield, will generate enough energy to power 4,300 homes. Both PG&E and SCE are under 20-year PPAs with SunEdison to contract the energy produced. Orion 1-2 will generate $1.3 million in property tax revenue and $9.4 million in sales and use tax revenue for the county over its 20-year contracted life.

Renewable energy investment reduces pollution and brings jobs


Investing in renewable energy in Kern County is important as the entire San Joaquin Valley has one of the worst air basins in the country. Bakersfield is one of the most polluted cities in America. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air report ranks the most polluted cities in the U.S. Bakersfield ranked No. 3 on three separate lists: by ozone, by year-round particle pollution and by short-term particle pollution.

Kern County is also in need of jobs. The unemployment rate in the county is higher than the state’s unemployment rate. In July, unemployment in Kern County was 10.4 percent, while the state unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.

Image credit: Google

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman

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