Google in 2012 announced a goal of running its operations 100% on renewable energy. Today the company announced that it plans to meet that target by the end of 2017, a year ahead of schedule.
Google will purchase direct renewable energy and buy renewable energy credits that match the amount of power the company uses to power its global operations. That’s 2.6 GigaWatts of electricity, or 2,600 MegaWatts (MW).
Google is just one of a handful of vendors, particularly those in the IaaS cloud computing market, who have committed to buying renewable energy to power their operations. Last week Amazon Web Services announced that it plans to be 50% powered by green energy sources by the end of next year.
Google buys power directly from renewable project developers in long-term power purchase agreements (PPA). The company explains in a whitepaper that it works with renewable energy project developers to build wind and solar farms in the same areas as where their data centers are. Google then sells that power it buys back to the local energy grid to receive renewable energy credits that it uses to purchase power for its operations. Google is offsetting the amount of power it uses in its data center with green energy it buys from wind and solar farms.
Some of Google’s PPAs include a 114 MW wind farm in Ames, Iowa, where the company has a data center campus; a 100.8 MW wind project in Mayes County, Okla., where the company also has a data center campus; a 72 MW wind facility in Sweden that came online in 2013; and a 240 MW wind farm in Texas. Google says its involved in 20 green power projects around the world.
Google says with its 2.6 GW of renewable energy that it is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. The company hopes that by making its plans and goals public it will help encourage more renewable energy project developers to construct wind and solar farms. Google is also hoping other companies follow its lead in committing to green power. The cost of wind and solar power has come down by 60% and 80% respectively in the past six years, meaning that buying green power is a long-term way for the company to protect itself from the volatility of energy prices, it says.
Google also works to reduce its overall energy usage. The company says its data centers are 50% more energy efficient than an average data center. “The science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent global priority. We believe the private sector, in partnership with policy leaders, must take bold steps and that we can do so in a way that leads to growth and opportunity,” Google Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure Urs Holze wrote in a blog post. “And we have a responsibility to do so — to our users and the environment.”