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Google Puts $100M into Shepherds Flat Wind Farm

Google upped its total clean energy spend to $350 million after pumping $100 million into the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm April 18.

Spanning over 30 square miles in Arlington, Ore., Shepherds Flat is expected to cost $2 billion to build and should produce 845 megawatts of electricity, or enough to fuel more than 235,000 homes, when it is completed by developer Caithness Energy in 2012.

That would make it the largest wind farm in the world, said Rick Needham, Google's director of Green Business Operations, in a blog post.

Clean or renewable energy includes hydroelectricity, solar energy, wind energy, wave power, geothermal energy, bioenergy and tidal power.

Google, a massive consumer of energy to power the thousands of computers that fuel its search and Web services, has pumped more than $350 million into clean energy, coming mostly in wind and/or tidal energy.

Google last October invested in the Atlantic Wind Connection backbone to power offshore windmills by connecting undersea cables along the Atlantic coast. Google last May seeded two NextEra wind farms in North Dakota with $38.8 million.

The Shepherds Flat development, easily Google's biggest wind power fund to date, is the first commercial wind farm in the United States to leverage turbines that use permanent magnet generators to boost the efficiency of wind power generation. Such generators are also called alternatives because they generate alternating current.

General Electric, a co-investor in Shepherds Flat along with Google, Japan's Sumitomo Corp. and a unit of Itochu, manufactured the turbines and is the operations and maintenance supplier.

The electricity produced at Shepherds Flat will be sold under long-term agreements to Southern California Edison. This will help Google endear itself to its home state of California, as Needham said the project will help California meet its renewable energy goals.

Google's funding for Shepherds Flat comes less than a week after the company invested $168 million for Brightsource's Ivanpah solar power tower in the Mojave Desert and $5 million for a solar photovoltaic plant near Berlin.

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