Google Invests $168 million in BrightSource Energy's MSP
Written By: John Shimkus
Google is no stranger to renewable energy investment, but now the Internet behemoth has its eyes set on bigger fish. BrightSource Energy’s proposed solar thermal plant in the Mojave Desert will be one of the largest solar energy projects in the United States and will double the solar thermal installed capacity in the U.S. Google has made a $168 million equity investment in the project, along with NRG Energy’s $300 million investment and $1.6 billion in loans from the U.S. federal government.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will be constructed in California’s Mojave Desert. The project will provide 2,600 MW of grid electricity, powering 140,000 homes.
The facility uses thermal solar energy as opposed to photovoltaic panels. Thousand’s of reflective mirrors will superheat fluids to drive a steam turbine. The Ivanpah plant will recycle the steam back into water to reduce water consumption by 95 percent compared to similar facilities.
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"We’re excited to be making our largest clean energy investment to date. With this investment, we’re helping to deploy the first commercial plant of a potentially transformative solar technology able to deliver clean energy at scale," said Rick Needham, Director of Green Business Operations at Google, in a statement. "Ivanpah will be the largest solar power tower project in the world, able to produce clean electricity at the highest efficiency of any solar thermal plant. We hope it can serve as a proof point and spur further investment in this exciting technology."
The project has been forcibly scaled back from original plans due to the location infringing on the habitat of endangered desert tortoises. The solar thermal plant will displace roughly 140 tortoises, and animal rights groups have been combating Ivanpah and other solar projects in the area. Ridiculous? Most certainly… but biodiversity is important. Nonetheless, I’m sure one could find a new home for 140 tortoises. Not to mention that once the facility is installed, the shelled critters would be able to live just as comfortably in the same area as the solar mirrors, maybe even with a little added shade!
USS pension fund buys 50% stake in Bruc Energy
The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) private pension fund has taken a 50% stake in Bruc Energy, a Spain and Portugal renewables-focussed investment vehicle created by OPTrust and Spanish businessman, Juan Béjar.
In the transaction arranged by USS Investment Management, the wholly-owned subsidiary and principal investment manager and advisor to the Scheme, USS has invested €225M (c.£200m) in return for the stake in a major pipeline of 4,000MW of PV farms. Bruc Energy has an ambitious growth plan that goes beyond this to invest in other green energies, such as wind power.
USS, which announced two weeks ago its aim to be net zero by 2050, already has a strong relationship with both OPTrust and Juan Bejar through Globalvia, a specialist infrastructure platform focussed on managing rail and highways assets around the world.
Spain’s sun-drenched climate and national target to reach 100% renewable-based generation by 2050 make it an attractive place to invest in solar energy. In addition, the decades long lifespan of solar PV panels make them well-suited to USS in helping pay members’ pensions long into the future.
USS Investment Management CEO, Simon Pilcher, said: “We are delighted to be committing further finance to renewables and particularly to a major Spanish solar platform like this. We have already invested or committed around £1 billion to renewable energy and demand for this will only increase as more and more countries transition to lower carbon. We know that our members care very much about climate change and ESG and we are convinced that USS playing its part in supporting the transition to a low carbon economy makes good financial sense, too. This announcement closely follows on from our stated ambition to become Net Zero by 2050 so this transaction and others like it will be a key plank of our strategy going forward.”
Gavin Merchant, Co-Head of Direct Equity, said: “We have worked alongside OPTrust and Juan Béjar for many years and are delighted to be making this investment. The long-term nature of solar and the steady returns make renewables attractive to a pension scheme needing to pay pensions for years to come.”
OPTrust’s Morgan McCormick, Managing Director, Private Markets Group UK said: “We are excited to have USS join Bruc Energy building on our strong existing relationship. Their investment will help Bruc become one of the leading renewable energy platforms in Spain. At OPTrust, we believe that investing in renewable energy helps transitions the world to a more sustainable economy. In doing so, we can continue to deliver on our mission of paying pensions today and preserving pensions for tomorrow.”
Béjar said the partnership is a key step to establishing Bruc as one of the more dynamic players in the renewables industry in Spain, because it ensures access to the funds to develop our current portfolio. "All three shareholders of Bruc Energy share a long-term vision, but also the ambition and the social responsibility to counter the effects of climate change in the short-term," he said.
Following the transaction, which remains subject to conditions, including regulatory approval, Bruc Energy will be owned 50% by USS and BROP, a vehicle owned by OPTrust and Béjar. The transaction was advised by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Greenhill and Nomura. Juan Béjar will be the president of Bruc Energy and Luis Venero the CEO.