Google partners for 500 MW environmental justice-focused distributed solar portfolio


Google and EDPR NA Distributed Generation (EDPR NA DG), the distributed generation business unit of EDP Renewables North America, signed a framework agreement supporting more than 80 distributed solar PV projects totaling 500 MWAC. According to data from S&P Global and BloombergNEF, this is the largest corporate sponsorship of distributed solar development in the U.S.

The deal aligns with an environmental justice program benefiting over 25,000 families in low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities. The initial focus will be on projects in the PJM Interconnection service area, which stretches from New Jersey to Ohio. The first projects will be built in Ohio, where Google operates a data center campus in New Albany and Google Cloud region in Columbus.

Google said at least 35% of the projects are planned to be built directly in LMI communities. Additionally, the company said at least 10% of the portfolio’s revenues will be redirected annually for up to 15 years as utility bill credits to more than 25,000 households facing a high energy burden. Google also plans to contribute Nest thermostats to select participating homes to further cut back on energy costs and encourage participation in demand response programs.

The initiative, named the Clean Energy Financial Benefit Sharing Program, will be funded, in part, through Google’s purchase of a novel renewable energy credit (REC) called the ImpactREC.

The ImpactREC leverages the landmark tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, and will provide direct investment into communities throughout the Midwest and Northeast, enabling economic benefits for LMI communities. Developed by the EDPR NA DG team in collaboration with Google, like other traditional RECs, the ImpactREC is generated in and eligible for the applicable compliance market. However, unlike traditional RECs it requires direct community involvement and LMI benefits.

“What we heard through interviews with local community leaders and Environmental Justice advocates was that the disproportionate impact of high energy burden remains a primary barrier to an equitable energy transition,” said Sana Ouji, energy lead, Google.

In addition to the ImpactREC purchase, the program includes the creation of a community impact fund valued at $12 million that will support initiatives reducing energy poverty in the communities where the projects are built.

“We are appreciative to Google for anchoring the ImpactREC and are looking forward to increasing participation throughout the compliance procurement community as our industry expands this product,” said Gustavo Monteiro, chief executive officer of EDPR NA DG.

Over the coming weeks EDPR NA DG plans to release blueprints that “will help make the ImpactREC the defining incentive methodology to enable localized renewable development linked with environmental justice,” according to Richard Dovere, chief investment officer of EDPR NA DG.

EDP Renewables is a global renewable energy producer, and its subsidiary EDP Renewables North America currently operates 475 MW of solar projects with 1.6 GW of solar projects under construction. The company also operates more than 200 distributed generation solar sites throughout North America.

In 2007, Google announced that its operations were carbon neutral and the company reports that in 2017 it became the first of its size to match 100% of its global, annual electricity consumption with renewable energy. Google  plans to decarbonize its electricity supply and operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy globally by 2030.

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