When it comes to Google and the environment, the search giant took several steps to reducing its carbon footprint in 2010.

In February of last year, the company’s subsidiary, Google Energy LLC, received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to buy and sell energy on the open market. In essence, this move allowed Google to purchase renewable energy at lower prices.

It also allowed the company to enter into a 20-year contract with a wind farm in Iowa to purchase 114 megawatts of electricity. The company signed that deal in July.

Google completed several other green energy investments in 2010.

In May, the search giant plunked down a $38.8 million investment in two North Dakota wind farms that can generate 169.5 megawatts of energy. That’s enough power to provide electricity for approximately 55,000 homes.

Google said that this project involves some of the most advanced wind turbine technology and control systems available. At the same time, it will provide the local grid with some of the lowest-cost renewable energy in the United States.

A few months later, Google made yet another investment in the environment when it provided funds for the development of a backbone transmission line off the Mid-Atlantic coast.

When completed, the transmission line will measure 350 miles long and connect wind turbines located off the Mid-Atlantic coast from New Jersey down to Virginia. These turbines will be capable of producing 6,000 mega-watts of electricity or enough to power 1.9 million homes.

The investments in clean energy come at the same time the search engine continues to build more green features into its web products.

For example, Google Maps now offers biking, walking and public transit options as part of its services. The biking option includes several neat features that make it easy to find bike-friendly commutes, including roads where no motor vehicles are allowed and streets with dedicated bike lanes. There’s even a way to look for routes with fewer hills.

The latest green web project Google unveiled is the Google Earth Engine. This new technology combines Google Earth with more than 25 years of satellite imagery allowing scientists, researchers and anyone else to review and measure changes in the Earth’s environment.

In particular, Google Earth Engine has a lot of potential for helping to measure deforestation around the globe by making it easy to compare satellite images from 25 years ago to today.

Google undoubtedly will have more environmental initiatives in the coming year, especially in the area of clean energy. With that in mind, 2011 should be an exciting year for renewable power.

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