Google To Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy Target In 2017

Google is soon to achieve a laudable milestone when it reaches 100 percent renewable energy use for its global operations in 2017.

The search engine giant said the use of complete green energy will be both for its energy efficient data centres, as well as its corporate offices around the world.

The achievement is remarkable when considering the sheer scale of processing power (and therefore energy) that Google requires in order to cope with trillions of search engine queries and the fact that every minute people upload more than 400 hours of YouTube videos.

Green Target

Google revealed its green energy target in a blog posting by Urs Holzle, Google’s senior VP of Technical Infrastructure.

He explained how Google has spent years perfecting its data centres, making them ’50 percent more energy efficient than the industry average’.

Google also spent years purchasing renewable energy to reduce its carbon footprint and address climate change, as well as making significant investments in solar and wind farms to help it achieve its green energy ambition.

“I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100 percent renewable energy for our global operations – including both our data centres and offices,” said Holzle. “We were one of the first corporations to create large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly; we signed our first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010.”

Holzle also revealed that Google is now the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That staggering amount of power is more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future.

“To reach this goal we’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally,” he wrote. “And we’re focusing on creating new energy from renewable sources, so we only buy from projects that are funded by our purchases.”

The Google man pointed out that over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar has come down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, which he claims proves that renewables are increasingly the lowest cost energy option.

Google currently has 20 renewable energy projects that also help support communities in the US, but also further afield in places such as Chile and Sweden.

Google’s investment in green technology has certainly added up over the years.

“To date, our purchasing commitments will result in infrastructure investments of more than $3.5 billion (£2.8bn) globally, about two-thirds of that in the United States,” wrote Holzle. “These projects also generate tens of millions of dollars per year in revenue to local property owners, and tens of millions more to local and national governments in tax revenue.”

Trump Clash?

But Google is not happy with just that. It also intends to expand its energy purchases beyond solar and wind, because “the wind doesn’t blow 24 hours a day”.

Google’s energy stance is in stark contrast to the opinions of incoming President Donald Trump, who has threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement and is sceptical of the global warming problem.

But Google is clear that climate change must become a priority for everyone in the future.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a world where everyone – not just Google – has access to clean energy,” wrote Google’s Holzle. “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. And we have a responsibility to do so – to our users and the environment.”

Google’s energy efforts will no doubt be praised by environmental campaigners.

Earlier this year a Green Grid report claimed that there were not enough conversations at a board room level about how businesses can make their data centres as environmentally friendly as possible.

Quiz: Know all about green IT?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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