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Google invests $168 million in world’s largest solar tower power plant

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Google announced this week that it has committed $168 million in funding for what will be the world’s largest solar power tower plant, which is currently being built in California’s Mojave Desert.

The massive alternative energy project, spearheaded by BrightSource Energy, will reportedly generate 392 grow megawatts of clean energy, enough to power 140,000 homes. “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,” writes Google in the official announcement on its blog.

In addition to Google’s investment, as well as a $300 million investment from NRG Energy Inc., BrightSource recently announced that it has secured a total of $1.6 billion in loans and guarantees from the US Department of Energy, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Google has now committed a total of about $250 million toward the production of green energy, which it says “makes business sense and will help ensure that one of the world’s largest solar energy projects is completed.” Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have long championed the need to develop clean, alternative energy sources. This project is a move towards that end — as well as a way to save money on electricity.

Because of its massive data centers, Google currently consumes staggering amounts of electricity to fuel its operation. This led the company to submit a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) early this year, which, if approved will allow Google to buy and sell wholesale electricity, which would help better manage its energy costs.

The plant, known as the Ivanpah Power Tower, will stand 450 feet tall, and use 173,000 heliostats, each with two mirrors. This type of solar plant is “very efficient,” says Google, “because all those mirrors focus a tremendous amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature (up to 1000 degrees F).”

Construction of the Ivanpah Power Tower began in October 2010, and is expected to last until 2013.

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