Google to buy 240MW of Texas wind

The tech company has signed a power purchase agreement to buy the entire output of Chermac’s Happy Hereford wind project in Texas.

California-based corporation Google has entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Chermac Energy Corporation to buy the entire output of Happy Hereford, a 240-megawatt (MW) wind facility to be built in Texas later this year and due to commence operations in late 2014, the two companies said in a joint statement.

“This is our fifth long-term agreement to purchase renewable energy – to date we’ve contracted over 570 MW of renewable energy as part of our long-term goal of powering our operations with 100 percent renewable energy,” Google’s global infrastructure director Gary Demasi said.

The wind farm will provide energy to the Southwest Power Pool, the regional grid that serves Google’s Mayes County, Oklahoma data centre.

Google cannot directly consume the energy generated by the wind farm, “due to the current structure of the market,” the company said in the statement. After purchasing the renewable energy it will retire its renewable energy certificates (RECs) and sell the power on the wholesale market.

Although Google will not consume the energy itself, the impact on its overall carbon footprint and the amount of renewable energy on the grid will be the same as if it did.

An explanation of how RECs work on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website illustrates how this is possible: “As renewable generators produce electricity, they have a positive impact, reducing the need for fossil fuel-based generation sources to meet consumer demand. RECs embody these positive environmental impacts and convey these benefits to the REC owner.”

Google will apply any additional RECs produced under this PPA to reduce its carbon footprint elsewhere.

The company’s other power purchase agreements are with NextEra Energy for 114MW and 100.8MW of wind generation from its Story County II facility in Iowa and its Minco II facility in Oklahoma, respectively.

In June, Google signed a 10-year PPA to buy the output of a 72MW wind farm under construction in northern Sweden. O2, a Swedish wind farm developer, will build the facility, while the investment arm of German insurer Allianz will finance it and then assume ownership when it becomes operational in early 2015. Google will use the generated energy to power its data centre in Finland.

The tech company has also been working with its utility partners to find ways to source renewables directly. In September 2012, it signed an agreement with the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to supply Google’s Mayes County data centre with 48 MW of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind project in west central Oklahoma, according to Google’s website.

For Oklahoma-based Chermac, Happy Hereford represents its fifth wind project development and first in Texas.

“We are looking forward to being part of Google’s portfolio of renewable energy projects and start of the Happy Hereford wind farm’s construction over the next few months,” Chermac president Jaime McAlpine said.

Since 2000, Chermac has been the initial project developer for over $1 billion of investments in wind energy. The integrated wind, oil, gas engineering and development firm has more than 1,000MW of wind under contract for construction and an additional 680MW in development.

Chermac Energy and its clients estimate investments in Chermac wind projects in 2013-2014 will exceed $1.5 billion, according to the statement.