What Is Google's "Largest Investment to Date"?

Photo: Digital Vision.

According to the official Google blog, it’s a recent $168 million investment in a solar-power plant:

We’ve invested $168 million in an exciting new solar energy power plant being developed by BrightSource Energy in the Mojave Desert in California. Brightsource’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will generate 392 gross MW of clean, solar energy. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 90,000 cars off the road over the lifetime of the plant, projected to be more than 25 years. The investment makes business sense and will help ensure that one of the world’s largest solar energy projects is completed.

We need smart capital to transform our energy sector and build a clean energy future. This is our largest investment to date, and we’ve now invested over $250 million in the clean energy sector. We’re excited about Ivanpah because our investment will help deploy a compelling solar energy technology that provides reliable clean energy, with the potential to significantly reduce costs on future projects.

I am a) surprised that $168 million represents Google’s largest investment, though I guess that’s because it depends on what your definition of “investment” is; and b) continually impressed with the Google blog, which is full of legitimate insight into the company and, as in this case, real news.

Nick Coghlan

The pronouns on the blog are sometimes a little unclear though. In this case, for instance, the "our" may refer to Green Business Operations in particular, rather than Google as a whole. The follow on to refer to "over $250 million in the clean energy sector" makes me think that is what has happened.

Nick Coghlan

Agreed on the quality of their blog though - it definitely has a place in the tech section of my feed reader.


I would say the acquisitions of Youtube ($1.65 billion) and DoubleClick ($3 billion) both dwarf it as an investment (to name two).


392MW / 90000 cars makes ~4.4KW/car. Thats a very slow car.


As an investor, I'd question why a software company gets involved into the business of electricty/power plant construction&management. Unless Google has turned itself into a venture capital fund, of which the software house is just an arm, in which case one might question if they have the proper governance structure.


Because they run massive server farms and engery is a major component of their operating costs.


90,000cars/25 years = 3600 cars per year. Last year 7.6 million vehicles were sold in the US alone. How about China, India, South America in the next 25 years? How many cars will they buy? So Google takes 3600 cars worth of energy out of the environment a year. BFD.

If they sell the 392 Megawatts ( a year, an hour, a day, for the life of the plant, what?) at 12 cents a kilowatt hour which is the current rate areas of California are selling electricity, well without knowing the time its hard to do the economics but this sounds like a truly stupid investment.


Unlike the kw*h, a megawatt is a unit of power not energy. Since the article specified a lifetime of 25 years you get 392,000kw*25 years * 365 days/year * 24 hours/day * .12 dollars/(kw*h) or $10,301,760,000.00. About $10 billion. Of course, it's not going to get $.12 per kwh nor will it generate 392MW constantly.


I don't think that even the best solar panels can generate power 24 hours a day...


300 days per year, 12 hours per day at 0.12 per KWH nets about $170M per year in electricity. Of course, Google is only part of the investment. Ivanpah got $300M from NRG Solar and $1.6B in government loans. For a total investment of $2.1B, generating $170M per year, or 8% is fairly pedestrian.