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Google ups investment in giant California wind farm

Google is up to $780 million in its investments in renewable energy, this time using a financial model it hopes will attract investors other than banks.

Google is putting $102 million into the large wind farm in California using a financial model it hopes will attract more money into wind projects.

Terra-Gen Power

In a company blog today, Google said its latest investment in the Alta Wind Energy Center follows the $55 million it put into the same facility last month and brings Google's total investment in renewable energy to $780 million.

Google and Citibank are investing in Alta V, an extension to the Alta Wind Energy Center, which is expected to have a generating capacity of 1,550 megawatts when completed. It also will have a dedicated transmission line built, the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project.

"We've now invested $157 million in 270 megawatts of clean, wind energy generation at AWEC. That brings our total invested to more than $780 million, with approximately $700 million invested this year alone," said Rick Needham, director of green business operations. "All in projects that not only provide us attractive financial returns but also help to accelerate the deployment of over 1.7 gigawatts of clean renewable energy."

By investing in the project, Google will benefit from the federal tax credits available to investors in renewable energy projects. Google and Citibank will own the Alta V wind farm but then lease it to Terra-Gen Power, which will manage and operate the project under a long-term contract.

Google's push into renewable energy, which started in 2007, has shaken up the world of renewable energy financing by showing that corporations other than banks can make money in these types of projects. Google hopes the leverage lease model it is using at the Alta Wind Energy Center will encourage new types of investors to consider wind, Needham said.