Google is a search engine right? Yes, that is their bread and butter but their intensive use of the internet means they spend a lot of money on energy.
Anytime Google can find a way to shave the cost of energy usage they stand to add tens of millions to their bottom line.
For Google to play around with energy investments is something that will always be worth it for them to do.
Google has spent over $1 billion on investments and contracts for renewable power. They have invested in some losing technology such as a wind farm in Vega Texas but they have bet on a few winners as well.
Google has even gone so far as to bet on a flying wind turbine company by outright buying the company and seeing what they can do to make it work in a commercial application.
You can find Google’s footprint all over California with investments in expanding an offshore electric grid for use with wind turbines off the Atlantic coast.
They have $168 million tied up in a solar project in California that has some environmentalists outraged because Ivanpah Valley serves as a critical linkage for the endangered desert tortoise.
The solar panels might possibly destroy the turtles habitat and burn and kill birds as the solar mirrors beam heat to a central tower.
The renewable energy projects that Google is invested in all have the ironic twist of cleaning the environment by getting away from fossil fuels while at the same time killing off rare and exotic bird and animal species.
Update: Ivanpah solar plant is now confirmed to only generate 25 % of its promised electricity generation capacity and they are now asking that the government (aka American tax payers) to pay for a large chunk of the federal loan. They want a $ 539 million grant to help pay down on the $1.6 billion loan. I am going to make another easy prediction here.
I bet the Obama administration approves the request and Google and the rest of the Ivanpah Valley solar investors get this free money from the investors which they were likely promised behind closed doors a long time ago.
All in all Google has the equivalent investment in renewable energy of the power generation capability of Hoover Dam. Their energy investments exceed 2 gigawatts of power generation capacity.
There is a little known company Google owns that has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission known as Google Energy.
Google Energy, can sell wholesale electricity generated from all it’s various power generation investments. Beyond large investment companies like JP Morgan Chase and electric companies there is not a single company in existence like Google that has major stand-alone power projects of these sizes.
There is a great reason Google is in the energy business. Consider that in in 2011 Google used 2.7 million megawatt-hours of power or a year’s worth of electric service for 243,000 households. That is as big as Austin guys!
Google says they are making money with their energy investments although they have refused to disclose earnings. I imagine the government subsidies given to solar is where Google is recouping most of their investment cost which results in earnings.
You have to wonder if the Presidents administration has been giving Google many of the sweetheart subsidy deals that go to wind and solar manufacturers and power generators?
I imagine when earnings are released you will see that without the governments help Google would likely have never considered some of these investments.
In summary as Google tries to find more ways to give back to the environment in a positive way the tax payers like you and me look forward to the day when solar and wind energy is cheap enough to not require tax payer funding that make large companies like Google look good while we sit back and eat the cost.