On the tail of Apple’s announcement that its Silicon Valley headquarters with run completely on solar, Google is buying locally-sourced wind energy for Googleplex, which is nearby.
The 43 megawatts (MW) Google is buying will power the campus, and will come from Altamont Pass – just 50 miles away – where the world’s oldest wind farm is in the midst of a make-over. 2400 of the original 4000 turbines are being replaced with just 100, 2.3 MW turbines, each 430-feet tall, higher than a redwood. The rest are being shut down. Besides the great increase in efficiency, the new layout greatly reduces collisions with birds and bats.
Google signed a 20-year power purchase agreement for half the power with NextEra Energy, which is redeveloping the project. Wind energy will start flowing next year.
This is one of several repowering projects at Altamont, by several developers. The total output is 576 MW, still one of the largest in the world.
Original design of Altamont – lots of small, clustered turbines make it hard on migrating birds:
In 2010, an agreement was negotiated between environmental groups, the state, and NextEra to update the outdated, inefficient turbines which were killing as many as 4300 birds a year, a third of which were protected raptors such as golden eagles. The Altamont Pass lies on a major migratory route and is an important breeding area. NextEra’s deadline is to replace all old turbines by November.
40 "shrouded" turbines are also being tested at Altamont, designed specifically to prevent accidents with birds and bats.
Google has long been leading on renewable energy purchases, spending about $2 billion worldwide on finance and equity stakes in projects as well as power purchase agreements. The company gets close to half its power from clean sources in addition to greatly reducing its footprint through energy efficiency.
The expanded Googleplex has a 2 MW solar array and also runs on landfill gas. Other innovative design elements are the use of radiant heating throughout – the largest of its kind in the US – and an extensive green roof.
Read our article, Repowering Becoming Big Business in Wind.