Google and KKR Invest in Six More Solar Projects

Google and investment firm KKR announced on Nov. 14 that they are investing in six solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities in California and Arizona that are currently under development by San Francisco–based renewable energy company Recurrent Energy. The projects are expected to be operational by January.

The six facilities, five in California and one in Arizona, will have a combined capacity of approximately 106 MW. They will be managed by Recurrent Energy and will provide power to local utilities and municipal customers under long-term power purchase agreements. The $400 million investment will be a mix of equity and debt.

This is the second such investment by Google and KKR in Recurrent Energy–managed solar PV projects. The three companies announced a $189 million arrangement in December 2011 covering four utility-scale facilities near Sacramento, Calif., with a total capacity of about 88 MW.

Google has a mixed history in renewable energy investments despite having committed more than $1 billion to the field. It contributed $168 million to Brightsource Energy’s nearly complete Ivanpah concentrating solar power plant in the Mojave desert, which was first synched to the grid in September. However, it quietly abandoned a more ambitious project, Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal, in 2011. The four-year initiative was designed to drive down the cost of renewable energy to under that of coal. Though progress was made, the company ultimately decided that other groups were better positioned to continue the work.

KKR, known for its many large corporate acquisitions such as TXU Corp. (now Energy Futures Holdings, parent company of Luminant), has begun investing in renewable energy. Over the last three years, it has funded several other renewable energy projects, including wind farms in France and solar projects in Spain, Canada, and the U.S.

Thomas W. Overton, JD, gas technology editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine)