Google Launches World’s Largest Solar Power Project

Posted on February 18, 2014

Google has revealed its latest foray into renewable energy sources by unveiling what it believes to be the world’s largest solar power project.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station plant on the California-Nevada border uses 347,000 sun-facing mirrors to produce 392 megawatts of electricity, which will be enough to power more than for more than 140,000 California homes.

The search engine giant has invested $168 million (£101m) into the plant, the latest in a series of 15 investmentsGoogle has made in renewable energy in just under a year. The deal takes the company past the $1 billion (£599m) amount for its total investment in wind and solar energy.

Feeling the power

“We’ve invested over a billion dollars in 15 projects that have the capacity to produce two gigawatts of power around the world, mostly in the US, but that’s the equivalent of Hoover’s Dam worth of power generation,” Rick Needham, Google’s director of energy and sustainability, told CNBC.

“The fact is that all of these things, procuring power for ourselves, investing in power plants, renewable power plants, they all make business sense, they make sense for us as a company to do. We rely on power for our business.”

The Ivanpah plant cost $2.2 billion (£1.31bn) to build overall, with a $1.6 billion (£957m) of this coming from federal loans, and is jointly owned by NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy alongside Google. Mirror panels reflect sunlight onto boilers on three towers, heating water into steam that drives power generators. It is estimated that the plant will save around 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles from the road.

According to Needham, about 34 percent of Google’s operations are powered by renewable sources.

Despite its green intentions, the Ivanpah plant has come under fire concerning its relationship with the local wildlife. The facility has been accused of killing birds due to the thousand degree heat it projects into the air, whilst also threatening local species such as desert tortoises and bighorn sheep by tapping scarce local water sources.

Google has long been attempting to promote the company’s green credentials, and gained the top spot in Greenpeace’s ‘Green IT’ league table of environmentally friendly technology companies last year. The company won praise for its investment in renewable energy, as well as for pushing deals such as the green tariff it has with Duke Energy in California that result in new solar and wind capacity.