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November 16, 2012

Google 'Tilts' at New Iowa Wind Turbines with $75M Equity Investment



Silicon Valley search giant Google (News - Alert) announced on its blog today it has made an equity investment of $75 million in a 50-megawatt (MW) wind farm located in Rippey, a small town in Greene County, about an hour outside of Des Moines.

“If you drive northwest from Des Moines, Iowa, you’ll see a lot of corn fields. From time to time, you’ll also see wind turbines rising out of those fields, making efficient use of our natural resources to produce renewable energy. It’s places like these that are home to a vibrant, emerging clean energy economy,” said Google’s Assistant Treasurer and head of Capital Markets Axel Martinez. The Rippey project – developed by West Des Moines-based RPM Access and now in operation –comprises over 3,500 acres and 20 turbines, together with the substation. It represents one of the first wind farms in Iowa to use 100-meter-tall towers, designed to provide better wind exposure for the 2.5-megawatt turbines.

It is expected to produce enough energy to power more than 15,000 Iowa homes.

Turbines for the wind farm were produced by Hamburg, Germany-based Nordex USA at its Jonesboro, Arkansas, facility. Nordex built the North American facility specifically to manufacture the nacelles for their U.S. installations. Approximately 75 percent of the value of an installed Nordex wind turbine is sourced in the United States.


Investment team members Nick Coons and Steffi Russell-Egbert visiting the Rippey project on a (windy) day in October

Martinez said that Google has taken two approaches “to greening the grid” in Iowa – a state where the technology company already operates the Council Bluffs data center.

“Back in 2010,” he explained, “we entered into a long-term contract to purchase wind energy from [Juno Beach, Florida-based] NextEra Energy Resources’ Story County II wind farm. This time, we’re investing directly into a wind project, which has been contracted to sell all of the energy to the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, an Iowa-based utility that will deliver the energy to local consumers.”

“We’re happy to help make more renewable energy available to Iowans and to support the growing wind energy industry in the state.”

The wind farm will continue to be managed by RPM Access. RPM will have developed more than 716 MW of operating wind generation projects in Iowa by the end of this year – approximately 15 percent of the total installed wind capacity in Iowa.

This project brings Google’s committed investment to the renewable energy sector to more than $990 million. And there may be more news in the pipeline: Google is expected to join state leaders Friday for another big announcement pertaining to investment in Iowa and it Council Bluffs data center.

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