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Google tilts with windmills

Sinks $38.8m into air power

Google has sunk $38.8 million into a pair of American wind farms, calling the move its first direct investment in a "utility-scale" renewable energy project.

On Monday, with a post to the Official Google blog, the online ad broker said it has invested in a pair of North Dakota wind farms developed by an outfit known as NextEra Energy Resources. Together, Google says, the two farms generate 169.5 megawatts of power, enough to support more than 55,000 homes.

"We’re aiming to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy - in a way that makes good business sense too," wrote Rick Needham, a Google "green" business operations manager.

Needham points out that Google has been pushing for renewable energy policies through its Google.org philanthropic arm and making investments in fledgling renewable energy outfits such as eSolar and AltaRock. But he says this is the first time the web giant has invested in a project that rivals a utility for size.

"We’ve been looking at investments in renewable energy projects, like the one we just signed, that can accelerate the deployment of the latest clean energy technology while providing attractive returns to Google and more capital for developers to build additional projects," he explains.

Earlier this year, Mountain View subsidiary Google Energy received the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to buy and sell power on the wholesale market just as a utility would. The company has said it wants the freedom to purchase renewable energy - which might include wind power - for its globe-spanning collection of custom-built data centers.

Google now owns a 20 per cent stake in a NextEra Energy Resources subsidiary that operates the two wind farms. According Needham, the farms include 113 turbines and that each turbine is designed to constantly adjust the pitch angle of its blades in an effort to maximize efficiency. ®

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