Google builds $145m solar project on top of old oil fields

Google has announced it is investing $145 million (£89 million) into its latest renewable energy project.

The search engine giant is helping to finance the 82 megawatt solar power plan, which will be the company's 17th renewable energy project, alongside SunEdison.

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The partnership means that Google will have supported clean energy through spending in excess of $1.5 billion (£923 million) across three continents for a capacity of more than 2.5 gigawatts.

Nick Coons, Google's renewable energy principle, explained why the project would focus on the Regulus solar development in Kern County, California.

"Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves," he wrote in a blog post. "The land sat for some time and today we're ready to spiff things up."

In 2013, Google's various long-term renewable energy agreements generated approximately 870,000 megawatt-hours, equating to 23 per cent of its total consumption needs. Added to those contracts, the green energy it sources from the grid and its own projects, Google claims to source roughly 35 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources.

While the company's five largest power purchase agreements have focused on wind power, the Regulus project demonstrates that Google is not neglecting other avenues of renewable energy. The deal will ultimately form SunEdison's largest solar project in North America and span 737 acres, including more than 248,000 monocrystalline photovoltaic modules.

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The system is actually owned by TerraForm Power, which will sell the energy output to SunEdison through a 20-year power purchase agreement. Additional financing has also been provided by the Prudential Capital Group and Santander Bank.