Following last week’s announcement that Apple partnered with First Solar to build new solar to power its headquarters and a huge portion of its California operations, Google announced that it would be lighting up the Googleplex – its Mountain View, CA, headquarters – entirely with wind power. Google is entering an agreement with NextEra, which owns the Altamont Pass installation, to purchase 50 percent of the wind farm’s power production. The resulting 43MW of capacity will be enough to run the entire Google campus. The deal will also bring the pioneering wind installation of 30 years ago into the modern era of advanced energy.
The Altamont Pass wind farm was built in the early 1980s and served as a sort of test case for the American wind industry (check out this original news clip from the Lodi-News Sentinel in 1982!). Wind technology has advanced in the past 33 years, with turbines getting bigger and more efficient, and part of the deal with Google involves replacing the original lattice-structured turbines. The upgrade involves replacing 770 old-style wind machines with 48 state-of-the-art turbines, with the Google deal picking up half the tab.
Google recognizes the historical significance of its choice of wind power source. Wired Magazine quotes David Radcliffe, Google’s VP of Real Estate and Workplaces Services: “We think this project is especially cool because back in the 1980s, the golden hills of Altamont Pass were an early test bed for the first large-scale wind power technology in the U.S. We’ve been blown away (pun intended :)) by how far turbine technology has come since then.”
Lauren Hepler wrote an interesting drill-down of the changing electricity economics for large corporations such as Google and Apple for Green Biz. “The deals this week have much more heft in both the symbolic and financial senses,” Hepler writes, “adding to mounting evidence that sustainability is increasingly being incorporated into core business decisions, rather than altruistic philanthropic initiatives or experimental research projects.”
Beyond powering Google, NextEra is also merging with Hawaii’s main utility, Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI). This week HEI posted its Q4 2014 earnings. The company saw a net income growth of more than 4 percent between 2013 and 2014, and it reported that more than 20% of the power consumed by customers was produced from renewable sources.
Although we focus mostly on developments in the U.S. advanced energy market, there were some media hits from around the world this week we found interesting. First, in electric vehicles, we learned that Japan now has more plug-in chargers than gas stations, also that China’s EV market is to be skyrocketing (and their car of choice is not the Tesla). Greentech Media reports on a startup, funded in part by AEE member SolarCity, that is using a financing model “reminiscent” of SolarCity’s to bring solar to a million homes in Tanzania. Finally, the United Kingdom approved plans for the world’s largest offshore wind farm (a watery footprint roughly the size of Puerto Rico!) off the coast of Yorkshire.
Talk about advanced energy taking the world by storm!
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