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As part of a $1.5 billion Google renewable energy pledge, the company has chipped in $145 million for an 82 MW solar power plant on a former oil field.

Clean Power

Google/SunEdison Mashup Transforms Oil Field To Solar Power

As part of a $1.5 billion Google renewable energy pledge, the company has chipped in $145 million for an 82 MW solar power plant on a former oil field.

If you want to take a look at just how close we are to a renewable energy future, talk a walk around an abandoned oil and gas field in Lamont, California. As part of a $1.5 billion Google renewable energy investment pledge, the company has just plunked down a cool $145 million for a stake in the 82-megawatt Regulus solar power plant, now under construction there.

Long after the oil and gas wells have been tapped out, the sun will still be shining over Lamont. With that advantage for solar power, it’s no wonder that fossil fuel stakeholders like the Koch brothers have been pumping bajillions of dollars into anti-renewable energy lobbying efforts.

Google renewable energy project with SunEdison

Abandoned oil field (cropped) by IvyMike.

The Regulus Solar Power Project

The Regulus solar power project is the largest project undertaken by solar leader SunEdison in North America. SunEdison is a familiar name around CleanTechnica but the Regulus project hasn’t crossed our radar yet, maybe because it’s all happening so fast (yet another reason to love solar).

The plant just broke ground last December and it’s already set to be up and running later this year. Here’s the nut:

The 737-acre 82 MW DC solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant…will be comprised of over 248,000 SunEdison mono-crystalline solar PV modules. Once operational, Regulus is expected to produce enough energy to completely power over 10,000 homes, with CO2 reductions equivalent to not burning 125 million pounds of coal annually.

The owner of the new solar power plant is the company TerraForm Power, which is majority owned by SunEdison. SunEdison will also operate and maintain the facility.

Google Renewable Energy

Here’s another reason why industry stakeholders like the Koch brothers are on a full court press: Google. We were just saying that environmentalism isn’t just a fight between the little guys and big corporations any more, it’s a slugfest between corporate giants and the stakes are high.

The Google renewable energy commitment of $1.5 billion alone adds up to a total of 2.5 gigawatts (Regulus is the 17th renewable energy investment for the company).

Other heavy hitters behind the Regulus project are Prudential Capital Group and Santander Bank NA, continuing a flood of new capital heading for renewable energy projects noted by Forbes back in 2012.

Since 2011 the Santander has already invested in 36 transactions totaling more than $2 billion, resulting in the construction of more than six gigawatts of renewable energy in the US.

The financing partnership with Prudential has been adding even more punch to Santander’s interest in renewable energy, Regulus being the seventh such arrangement between the two.

Green Power, Brown Fields

The Google renewable energy project is hardly the biggest in terms of wattage (check out this 500 MW honey from Abengoa and BrightSource), but the brownfield-to-green power angle caught our eye because we’re all over the idea that renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels, can piggyback onto existing developed and/or abandoned land.

In 2010 the Obama Administration launched a brownfields-to-renewables initiative called Re-Powering America’s Land. Spearheaded by the EPA, the initiative has already tracked more than 709 MW in completed renewable energy projects on formerly developed land.


Considering that an estimated stockpile of 14 million brownfield acres is potentially available for wind and solar energy development in the US, there’s a lot more coming down the pipeline. SunEdison, for one, is already committed to building the largest solar installation in New York City, at the former Fresh Kills landfill.

Add in the vast untapped potential for creating renewable energy projects in the form of rooftop solar, parking lot solar canopies, and other existing infrastructure, and it’s clear that this is just the beginning of a clean energy revolution.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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