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by Michael Kanellos

Last year, Google (GOOG) surprised people when it said it would begin to invest in renewable power projects. Yesterday it followed through with the plan.

The search giant said it has invested $38.8 million into two wind farm projects in North Dakota that will generate 169.5 megwatts of power. NextEra Energy Resources is the developer.

"To tackle this need, we’ve been looking at investments in renewable energy projects, like the one we just signed, that can accelerate the deployment of the latest clean energy technology while providing attractive returns to Google and more capital for developers to build additional projects," Google stated.

The investment does not come from Google.org, which has made sporadic venture investments, but Google proper. Last year, the company got permission to sell electricity like a utility.

Who knows, it might even lead to data centers in the region. Google has a massive electric bill because of its data centers and continually seeks ways to integrate renewables into the mix. Generating power in remote areas creates problems because power gets lost in transmission. Building data centers in remote locations can lead to increased data latency, but it's a smaller problem and one that can be ameliorated through data center architecture and application management. That's why Iceland says it can "export" geothermal power. Iceland will harness the power from geothermal wells to run data centers, which will then funnel data to North America and Europe.

There are a few spare acres in North Dakota for this kind of construction.

While wind costs less than solar and provides more power than solar in the U.S., it has not been a favorite of Silicon Valley. VCs have looked at wind as a market that will be dominated by big companies. But in recent months, investors have begun to sniff around and even plunk money into companies that provide components to turbine developers. Last week at Nordic Green II, Jim Kim from Khosla Ventures said he was looking at some wind opportunities. Maurice Gunderson of CMEA pointed out to us recently that his firm has an investment in Danotek Motion Technologies in Michigan, which has developed permanent magnet generators for wind turbines.

Interestingly, Kim also said he thinks Michigan could be the next hot spot for investors: lots of supply chain and mechanical engineering experts there. Danotek is one example of that.

Oh, Geez! Maybe you should reserve that U-Haul now.

Disclosure: No positions

Source: Google Invests in Wind Farms: Is the Midwest the New Silicon Valley?