April 12, 2011 - Google invests in Ivanpah solar

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Google has committed $168 million in funding for what might be the world's largest solar project, proposed for construction in California's Mojave Desert.
Water spills over a dam near a paper mill on a river in Maine.

This story ties together several threads that run through this blog.  In February 2010, I wrote about the 392 MW Ivanpah solar project, and how it benefited from $1.6 billion in Department of Energy loan guarantees (the same program now at risk of being cut from the federal budget).  If built as proposed by developer Bright Source Energy, the large solar thermal project would the world's largest solar complex, featuring up to three thermal generation units.  Coincidentally (or not), that same day I followed up on an earlier look at Google's nascent interest in energy markets after it obtained market-based rate authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In the ensuing months, Google has emerged as a sophisticated player in the energy world - investing in underwater transmission infrastructure to connect regions and support ocean energy projects, buying power directly from a wind project, investing in fuel cell research and development, and promoting real-time electricity pricing and programs.  Now, Google can add an investment in utility-scale solar thermal projects to its portfolio.

Meanwhile, the fate of DOE's loan program remains uncertain; reports suggest that the energy portion of the budget is still being finalized, with a vote possible as early as Thursday.

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