Internet technology giant Google is committing to support construction of more than 80 new distributed solar energy projects totaling 500 MW of capacity that will be made available to many low- and moderate-income energy customers mainly in the midwest.
Google’s deal with EDP Renewables North America Distributed Generation (EDPR NA DG) should lead to dozens of DER projects benefiting more than 25,000 families in low-to-moderate income communities The initial rollout will include solar projects within the PJM Interconnection, including Ohio where Google operates a data center built for $600 million in New Albany.
The new initiative with Google and EDPR NA DG is called the Clean Energy Financial Benefit Sharing Program. It will be funded, in part, by Google’s purchase of new renewable energy credits called the Impact REC.
“What we heard through interviews with local community leaders and environmental justice advocates was that the disproportionate impact of high energy burden remains a primary barrier to an equitable energy transition,” Sana Ouii, energy lead at Google, said in a statement. “Partnering with EDPR NA DG, we aim to reduce energy burder in the communities where we operate, while progressing toward our 24/7 carbon-free energy goal.”
The work toward a greater array of distributed solar will create more energy equality in those data center communities, the companies say.
In addition to the ImpactRE purchase, the program includes the creation of a community impact fund valued at $12 million. The fund focuses on initiatives reducing energy poverty in the communities where the projects are built.
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“The partnership with Google paves the way for the creation of a new, corporate-led, market segment focused on breaking down the typical barriers associated with the rapid, distributed, and equitable decarbonization of the energy system,” added Richard Dovere, Chief Investment Officer of EDPR NA DG, in a statement. “A major feature of this partnership is its ‘open book’ approach. Over the coming weeks, we will release the blueprints to the market with the intention to make the ImpactREC™ the defining incentive methodology to enable localized renewable development linked with environmental justice.”
The initiative is made possible partly because of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in 2022, which includes landmark tax incentives for domestic energy production and manufacturing. The ImpactREC leverages these incentives to provide direct investment into communities throughout the Midwest and Northeast and enable economic benefits for LMI communities.
Amazon touts itself as the world’s no. 1 buyer of renewable energy power purchase agreements, but Google ranks high on both clean energy procurements and on-site projects. Google, however, ranked in the top three (behind Facebook parent Meta) with some 1.6 GW of renewable PPAs last year, according to Bloomberg NEF.
Late last year, the tech giant announced plans to procure up to 942 MW of renewable energy from SB Energy for Google’s data center planned in Midlothian, Texas.
The Texas solar projects will primarily utilize U.S.-made First Solar modules produced at First Solar's Ohio manufacturing plant.
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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 15-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).
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