Google takes the first step towards its 5 GW goal

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Branching off from Google’s announcement last month that the company completed 18 new renewable energy deals totaling 1.6 GW at a price of more than $2 billion, we now know where roughly 1/6 of that energy will becoming from.

Google will be purchasing 250 MWac of solar-generated electricity from 500 MWac of solar plants under development by Hecate Energy in Texas.

Globally, the 1.6 GW of procurement is set to bring Google to 5.5 GW in international renewable capacity, comprised mostly of solar and wind – more than most countries. Of those 1.6 GW, 720 MW will be purchased from solar farms in the U.S., spread across North Carolina (155 MW), South Carolina (75 MW), and Texas (490 MW). This deal with Hecate alone represents almost twice as much capacity as the company has in its solar portfolio to date and is only half of what the company has planned in Texas.

To date in the United States Google has installed or is receiving contracted electricity from just a tick under 143 MWac of solar projects. This is good for sixth-most among all companies in the country. This deal with Hecate is so large, that if it were to go on-line tomorrow (which it won’t, but wouldn’t that be neat?), Google would immediately vault to second place, just a paltry 0.4 MW behind Apple (yet another field the two compete in for total domination).

The tricky thing is, the project is so early in its infancy, we don’t yet know when construction will begin, let alone when it will start feeding our electricity-hungry tech and data overlord. Moreover, this isn’t Google’s only contracted project in The States and Apple for sure is not treading water at 393 MW, so the above numbers are less of a projection and more to give a feel for the scope of this project announcement.

However, if Google’s solar growth in the United States is anything like it is globally, one should expect the company to be higher then sixth on next year’s Solar Means Business report, especially considering that the 142.9 MW figure has been Google’s total reported capacity for the last three years.

The recently-upped commitment to renewable energy made by Google provides further evidence to what can be taken as a very inspiring or harrowing fact: the energy revolution is being led by corporations, not governments. A large share of said corporations cite public perception and a feeling of corporate responsibility towards the environment as the reason for increased renewable commitments. It also doesn’t hurt that Google directly cites the falling cost of solar as a reason for new deals.