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April 08, 2011

Google Ventures Goes Solar in Germany



Google Ventures has announced its second clean energy investment since March—and its first-ever investment outside the United States. The venture capital arm of the search marketing giant intends to spend about $5 million on a 49 percent stake in a solar photovoltaic power plant located in Brandenburg an der Havel, near Berlin.

The company joins Hamburg-based Capital Stage AG in investing in the 18.7-megawatt solar plant, which is among the largest in Germany.  The 116-acre solar facility will provide clean energy to more than 5,000 households in the Brandenburg area.

Benjamin Kott, Google’s Clean Energy (News - Alert) Advocacy Manager, commented on the company’s European Public Policy Blog, “We agreed to jointly invest in this project with the German private equity company Capital Stage, which brings strong experience in the German photovoltaic and renewable energy market. Germany has a robust framework for renewable energy and is home to many leading-edge technology companies in the sector. More than 70 percent of the solar modules installed in Brandenburg are provided by German manufacturers.”

Indeed, according to a study published by The Pew Charitable Trusts, in 2010, the Europe region was the chief recipient of clean energy financing, attracting a total of $94.4 billion. For those 12 months, “rising among the ranks of top-10 countries for private clean energy investment,” Germany and Italy attracted $41.2 billion and $13.9 billion, respectively.

The same study noted that China, a leading producer of wind turbines and solar modules, has surpassed the United States as the country with the most installed clean energy capacity—and the Americas region has placed a distant third in clean energy investment.

Despite that dour news, Google (News - Alert) Ventures continues to add value to the Americas region cleantech market. The company agreed, in March 2011, to put $20 million into CoolPlanetBiofuels, a Southern California start-up that is developing mobile refineries to turn wood chips, agriculture waste, and other biomass into biofuels.

Bill Maris, Managing Partner of Google Ventures, commented, “Google has always had a strong belief in the power of entrepreneurs to do amazing things. Google has always made investments in companies, and we will continue to do so.”

Google’s investment in Germany follows other local projects. Earlier this year, Google pledged to open an Internet institute in Berlin, and it also has launched an initiative to get the German Mittelstand (or small and medium businesses) online.


Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee


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