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Google, SolarCity create $280 million residential solar fund

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Google has done it again, partnering with solar power company SolarCity to create a new, $280 million fund designated for residential solar projects. The fund is the largest of its kind in the US. It is also the most money the world’s largest Internet search engine has invested in the renewable energy sector.
Google, SolarCity create $280 million residential solar fund

To date, Google has invested $680 million in various renewable energy technologies (see list below). With the new fund the company is seeking to make solar panels more affordable for those who want to embrace the technology without having to make a big, up-front investment.

Industry analysts said this morning the find could help deploy between 7,000 and 9,000 rooftop solar projects depending on the size of the systems.

“ We believe the world needs a wide range of clean energy options in the future, each serving different needs,” said Rick Needham, director of green business operations at Google, in the blog dispatch posted Tuesday morning. “We’ve already invested in several large-scale renewable energy projects, so we’re excited that this new partnership with SolarCity helps people power their homes directly with solar energy, too.

“We think ‘distributed’ renewable energy (generated and used right at home) is a smart way to use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to improve our power system since it helps avoid or alleviate distribution constraints on the traditional electricity grid,” he said.

Needham went on to describe the investment as a “quadruple-win” for Google, SolarCity, its new customers and the environment.

“We continue to look for other renewable energy investments that make business sense and help develop and deploy cleaner sources of energy,” he said. “Whether harnessing the sun on

rooftops or in the desert sands of the Mojave desert, it’s all part of building a clean energy future.”

Founded in 2006, SolarCity has more than 15,000 solar projects and finances about 80 percent of its customers' solar systems. SolarCity has 15 funds with seven different partners to finance $1.28 billion in residential and commercial projects. Previous funding partners include Citibank and US Bancorp.

Under SolarCity’s financing models, homeowners can prepay, or pay nothing upfront after which they make monthly solar lease payments.

Google’s renewable-energy investments to date

  • German solar project: €3.5 million ($5 million) invested in a solar photovoltaic farm in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany, which is near Berlin.
  • Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, Oregon, (US): $100 million invested in what is anticipated to be the world’s largest wind farm.
  • NextEra Energy Resources, various wind farms in North Dakota (US): $38.8 million for 169.5 MW in wind projects.
  • Atlantic Ocean Transmission Line (US): Google owns a 41.7 percent stake in a $5 billion undersea transmission line project meant to link offshore wind farms along the Mid-Atlantic Coast of the US. The project recently got an approved rate of return of 12.59 percent.
  • Wind power purchase: The Search giant’s subsidiary, Google Energy, agreed in July 2010 to a 20-year deal to buy 114 MW of power from a wind farm in Iowa (US). The wind farm is owned by NextEra Energy Resources.
  • Wind power purchase: The Search giant’s subsidiary, Google Energy, agreed in April 2011 to a 20-year deal to buy 100.8 MW of power from a wind farm in Oklahoma (US). The wind farm is owned by NextEra Energy Resources.
  • Solar thermal project: $168 million invested in Brightsource Energy’s solar thermal project in California’s (US) Mojave Desert.
  •  Greentech startups: Although these are much smaller investments in the scheme of things, Google, through subsidiaries Google Ventures and Google.org, has invested in at least nine “greentech” startups, including battery maker ActaCell, electric vehicle maker Aptera, efficient car maker Next Autoworks, geothermal company Alta Rock Energy, neighbor-to-neighbor car sharing company RelayRides, weather insurance company WeatherBill, smart grid company Silver Spring Networks, biofuel maker Cool Planet Biofuels, and efficient power gear conversion tech start-up Transphorm.

For additional information:

Google’s blog post

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