Google investing $55 million in California wind energy project

According to a post on the Google Green blog, developer Terra-Gen Power is constructing the Alta Wind Energy Center in phases. The wind power project eventually will generate 1,500 megawatts of power, or enough energy for 450,000 homes, according to the post.

It’s just the latest in a recent string of investments by Google in wind power and other alternative generation technologies.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved investment incentives for a Google-backed project to build a $5 billion undersea power line for wind farms along the Atlantic coast. That project is still awaiting building permits from federal and state regulators.

In April, the search giant announced it had signed a $100 million, 20-year deal to buy 100 megawatts of power from a new wind farm in Oklahoma, where Google is building a data center.

"We see a real need to transform the electrical grid over time," Bill Weihl, Google’s clean-energy czar, said then.

Data centers such as Google’s are estimated to consume about 3 percent of all electricity used in the United States by the end of this year, according to the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency, at a cost of about $9 billion.

Last summer, the company created Google Energy in December to buy clean power and resell it to wholesalers. Banking giant Citi has provided $55 million in financing for the Alta Wind project, which currently has the capacity to provide 720 megawatts of power to utility Southern California Edison.

"While Google won’t be purchasing the electricity from this project," Rick Needham, Google’s director of green business operations wrote in the blog post, the wind turbines "will help California meet its ambitious renewable portfolio standard of 33 percent clean power by 2020. The whole site will boost California’s wind generation by 30 percent."

According to the post, Google and Citi are purchasing one of the project phases, then leasing it back to Terra-Gen.

"We are delighted to have Citi and Google as important investors and welcome their participation in the Alta Wind Energy Center," Terra-Gen Power CEO Jim Pagano said in a news release.

Frank Michael Russell and Peter Delevett,