Solar power installations in the United States have reached record highs this year. As we reported previously, third quarter photovoltaic installations rose by 40%, bringing total installed capacity above 1GW for the first time in U.S. history.
As the year draws to a close, the North American sector is attracting notable new investments from high profile corporate and individual investors such as Google, TransCanada and Warren Buffett.
Google, in conjunction with private equity firm KKR & Co, is buying four solar power plants in California from solar developer Recurrent Energy (owned by Sharp Corp). Together, these plants have a total capacity of 88MW. Google’s latest purchase brings its total investment in solar to over $915 million.
Making its first investment in solar, TransCanada – in the news recently surrounding its Keystone XL pipeline to connect Canada’s Alberta tar sands region with refineries in the Gulf – will pay $470 million to Canadian Solar to develop nine plants across Ontario, Canada. Canadian Solar will take advantage of Ontario’s generous feed-in-tariff program to incentivize the generation of electricity from renewable sources.
Last but certainly not least, we come to Warren Buffett. The “Oracle of Omaha” has invested heavily into solar via MidAmerican Energy’s (a holding company of Berkshire Hathaway) plan to buy First Solar’s $2 billion Topaz solar photovoltaic plant in Southern California.
The plant is currently under construction, but upon completion by early 2015, will have the capacity to generate enough energy to meet the demands of approximately 160,000 homes.
“MidAmerican is the No. 1 owner of wind-powered energy generation among US rate-regulated utilities,” remarked Greg Abel, the Chairman, President & CEO. “Adding solar energy to our generation portfolio is a strategic move to invest in yet another renewable energy source.”
Abel continued, “This project also demonstrates that solar energy is a commercially viable technology without the support of governmental loan guarantees and reflects the type of solar and other renewable generation that MidAmerican will continue to seek to add to its unregulated portfolio.”