Google invests in utility-scale US solar photovoltaic projects

Google, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Recurrent Energy have announced an investment in a portfolio of solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities serving the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) of California.

The portfolio of projects is reportedly financed with a combination of debt and equity, which includes a significant equity investment from Google in addition to equity from SunTap Energy — a venture formed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) to invest in solar projects in the US.

‘The investment is a clear demonstration of solar’s ability to attract private capital from well-established investors [such as] Google and KKR,’ said Arno Harris, chief executive officer of Recurrent Energy. ‘This transaction provides an example of the direction solar is headed as a viable, mainstream part of our energy economy.’

According to a statement, the four solar PV facilities included in the transaction will provide 88MW of power to SMUD and were the first to be awarded as part of the utility’s feed-in tariff programme introduced in January 2010.

Construction on three of the Sacramento area projects will be complete early in 2012, with the fourth coming online later in the year.

The projects are expected to generate nearly 160,000,000kWh in their first year of operation, which is claimed to be roughly equivalent to offsetting the electricity consumption of more than 13,000 average US homes.

Google’s investment in these projects brings its total invested to more than $915m (£587m) in renewable energy projects and is its first in North America’s utility-scale solar PV industry.