Google, KKR backing 88MW of Calif. solar projects

Google is underscoring its interest in renewable energy and specifically solar PV, by plunking down $94M alongside KKR for four Recurrent Energy solar farms in California totaling 88MW.

December 21, 2011 – A month ago Google announced it was shutting down its “Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal” (RE<C) initiative, ultimately deciding that finding ways to improve solar technology is a job for others in the field to do better. That led to some handwringing about Google’s overall view of solar and renewable energy.

But not to fear: Google’s just turning away from R&D and more toward real-world applicability. The Internet giant is investing $94M, alongside an undisclosed sum from KKR’s SunTap Energy unit, in four California solar farms being built by Recurrent Energy totaling 88MW. The sites, all slated to be completed in 2012 will supply energy to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) under a 20-year PPA, and were the first to get the utility’s feed-in tariff program in Jan 2010.

This is Google’s first investment in the US focusing on larger-scale solar PV plants; it’s already backing more than 10,000 homeowners to install solar PV panels on their rooftops. “We look forward to new opportunities next year to further expand our portfolio of clean energy investments,” said Google’s Axel Martinez.

For KKR and SunTap, it’s their third RE investment of the year, and the first in the US; others included French wind park operator Sorgenia and Spanish solar energy firm T-Solar. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with these two leaders to serve SMUD with a substantial and reliable new source of renewable energy and to contribute to our country’s vast growth in clean energy resources,” stated Raj Agrawal, head of KKR’s North American infrastructure team.