Google has invested millions of dollars in solar and geothermal power, including investments in renewable start-ups like eSolar and Brightsource Energy, as well as development of its own solar technology. Until now, the internet giant has steered clear of wind power. But today, Rick Needham, Google’s Green Business Operations Manager, announced that Google was making its first direct investment in a utility-scale renewable energy project, sending $38.8 million to two wind farms in North Dakota.
In development by NextEra Energy Resources, the two wind farms consist of 113 turbines creating 169.5 megawatts of renewable wind power—enough to power 55,000 homes. The turbines will incorporate some cutting-edge wind technology as well, improving turbine performance and lowering the overall cost of resulting electricity. In terms of control, each turbine will be able to automatically adjust blade pitch to better harness wind from all directions, and use larger blades to achieve 15 percent more swept area than previous models.
The latest in remote monitoring technology will be employed to ensure maximum time online for each turbine and increase overall power production. The tilting windmills should have little problem finding wind energy on North Dakota’s open plains. The expansive state holds the best wind resources in the nation. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), North Dakota could produce up to 1,210 billion kilowatt-hours of wind power annually.
Other clean energy innovations by Google include its PowerMeter, which tracks home energy usage online, and a climate change tool that Google hopes will help cut down on global deforestation. The search engine giant is offering both of these resources to scientists, utilities, governments, organizations or individuals for free through its philanthropic arm, Google.org. Google has also been lobbying the federal government hard on behalf of environmental legislation.