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Chapter 1 Introduction to Sustainable Business and Sustainable Business Core Concepts and Frameworks

Google Invests $39 Million in Wind Farms

In 2010, Google invested $38.8 million in two North Dakota wind farms built by NextEra Energy Resources. These wind farms generate 169.5 MW of electricity, enough to power 55,000 homes. Google’s investment represents a minority interest in the $190 million financing of the projects. The two wind farms had already been built, but Google said that its investment would provide funds for NextEra to invest in additional renewable energy projects. Google’s investment is structured as a “tax equity investment” where it will earn a return based on tax credits—a direct offset of federal taxes that Google would otherwise need to pay—for renewable energy projects, Google spokesman Jamie Yood said the energy from the wind farms would not be used to power Google’s data centers, which consume large amounts of electricity. Mr. Yood said that Google’s primary goal was to earn a return from its investment but that the company also is looking to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. Renewable energy comes from sources such as solar panels and wind turbines to generate energy as opposed to other sources used such as coal or oil. Renewable energy typically has a much lower impact on the environment depending on the type and often emits little to no pollution.

Conscious of its high electricity bills and its impact on the environment, Google has long had an interest in renewable energy. Renewable energy projects at Google range from a large solar power installation on its campus, to the promotion of plug-in hybrids, to investments in renewable energy start-up companies like eSolar. Google has also worked on making its data centers more energy efficient, consume less electricity while still handling the same amount of data requests, and has developed technologies to let people monitor their home energy use. But as of 2010, the company had yet to live up to its promise to help to finance the generation of renewable energy. “We’re aiming to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy—in a way that makes good business sense, too,” Rick Needham, green business operations manager at Google, wrote on the company’s blog.