Google Hits a Major Renewable Energy Milestone

Posted on April 4, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Google with 9 Comments

No, Google isn't running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy. But the firm has reached a major milestone in renewable energy purchasing. "Google’s total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar [in 2017] exceeded the amount of electricity used by our operations around the world, including offices and data centers," Google's Urs Hölzle writes. "For every kilowatt hour of electricity we consumed, we purchased a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google. This makes us the first public Cloud, and company of our size, to have achieved this feat." To be clear, Google has not powered its operations solely with 100 percent renewable energy: Such a feat, it says, is impossible. Instead, it is matching its energy consumption with purchased renewable energy which it returns to a power grid somewhere. "That renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we’re running our data centers and offices," Hölzle claims. "What’s important to us is that we are adding new clean energy sources to the electrical system, and that we’re buying that renewable energy in the same amount as what we’re consuming, globally and on an annual basis." Google began purchasing renewable energy in 2010. And in December 2016, the firm announced that it intended to achieve 100 percent renewable energy matching for its global operations in 2017. This achievement is impressive, and it dwarfs similar efforts by companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, each of which also maintains massive datacenters around the globe. Microsoft, in particular, has improved its consumption of renewable energy over the past year, but it still trails Amazon and isn't in the same league as Google.

No, Google isn’t running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy. But the firm has reached a major milestone in renewable energy purchasing.

“Google’s total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar [in 2017] exceeded the amount of electricity used by our operations around the world, including offices and data centers,” Google’s Urs Hölzle writes. “For every kilowatt hour of electricity we consumed, we purchased a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google. This makes us the first public Cloud, and company of our size, to have achieved this feat.”

To be clear, Google has not powered its operations solely with 100 percent renewable energy: Such a feat, it says, is impossible. Instead, it is matching its energy consumption with purchased renewable energy which it returns to a power grid somewhere.

“That renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we’re running our data centers and offices,” Hölzle claims. “What’s important to us is that we are adding new clean energy sources to the electrical system, and that we’re buying that renewable energy in the same amount as what we’re consuming, globally and on an annual basis.”

Google began purchasing renewable energy in 2010. And in December 2016, the firm announced that it intended to achieve 100 percent renewable energy matching for its global operations in 2017.

This achievement is impressive, and it dwarfs similar efforts by companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, each of which also maintains massive datacenters around the globe. Microsoft, in particular, has improved its consumption of renewable energy over the past year, but it still trails Amazon and isn’t in the same league as Google.

 

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (9)

9 responses to “Google Hits a Major Renewable Energy Milestone”

  1. Nicholas Kathrein

    I love this stuff! Evil Google must have an ulterior motive for doing this. What could it be?

  2. RM

    I wonder how much energy each of the big cloud venders is using. Google has less data centers, so they might be using a lot less overall. It might be much harder to achieve 100% for both Amazon and Microsoft. However, I hope they and others get there!

  3. Stooks

    Hmm that chart looks like it is missing some data. Apple has been using Biogas fuel cells since 2012 at its NC data center, making it the largest user (commercial user) of Bio fuels. They also use them at the new spaceship HQ, which is 100% renewable. Yet they are not on this chart??????


    More needs to be said about the fights against Goolge and other companies when it comes to renewable power. Apple fought NC because they tried to block them from using so much renewable power. No doubt power companies paid off the NC state government to block this move.


    I know in parts of Florida, from the big storms last year, that the power companies there have blocked home owners from installing solar, again paid off the right people. They say its a "safety" issue. Corruption at its finest.

    • Michael Babiuk

      In reply to Stooks: I noticed the included chart but it states: "Cumulative Corporate Renewable Energy Purchased in the United States, Europe and Mexico - March 2018".
      I am a little confused by what that chart actually implies. It says Google "PURCHASED" renewable energy assets. It does NOT IMPLY how "green" Google facilities currently are. Another way to state this is the chart does not show the percentage of Google facilities still using non-renewable energy sources.
      I really doubt Google is as "Green" as Apple facilities are. I recall reading that all recent Apple Server Farm locations (for example, in N.C.) have been solar powered.


      • NateThompson114

        In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

        Why would Google not be as green as apple, does power cost not affect bottom line the same? To be honest this sounds a bit like a apple fanboy statement, "I doubt that nasty google is as wonderfully green as apple, I mean green...apple" lol, MAYBE I am reading into it to much. Here is the bottom line, apple's power consumption does not matter one bit in comparison, there is a HUGE amount more of Google servers and server locations. The only companies with large data centers close to Google are Amazon and Microsoft. Now as the article states, NO its not 100% renewable energy at each location. Instead in places where google HAS to use a non renewable source, it purchases that amount in renewable energy to be dumped back into the grid. It also states that Google is 100% "renewable", given that its on this site and not some local news station, I believe it.

        • Michael Babiuk

          I In reply to NateThompson114: I understand your points and I agree (or more correctly) I have no reason to doubt Google's claim that their facilities employ 100 percent of their power requirements from renewable energy sources.
          My points did not dispute that assertion. But try to understand what I was trying to state. Apple is a net clean energy exporter. Their facilities are mostly powered by solar panels on their newer facilities. Case in point, their new main campus is a prime example of that corporate decision to use solar panels. And I already mentioned in my previous comment their solar powered NC server farms were designed to use roof top solar panels. Apple has gone on record as stating that those facilities that I mentioned are net exporters of green energy to the "Grid".
          Google's facilities are net importers of renewable energy sources - a big difference. Their server farms, for example, are not solar or wind powered. In order to run, they need to purchase electricity from some source and this article's chart showed that source was from renewable sources.
          You asked how that difference effects the bottom line by implying that the source of Apple's power consumption didn't matter. It's obvious that it does matter. Apple gains a net profit by exporting clean power from their facilities to the "Grid" while Google needs to purchase electricity. To me, your statement, " Instead in places where google HAS to use a non renewable source, it purchases that amount in renewable energy to be dumped back into the grid." doesn't make sense. One doesn't buy energy than divert that bought energy "back into the grid". It uses that bought energy up in powering their electrical equipment inside their facilities.
          Using a metaphor that I might be more familiar with than you, Apple and Google can be viewed as "car companies" trying to operate under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) laws. Both have to power their "cars" (facilities) somehow and the Federal Gov't mandates that their facilities NEED to operate using "X" amount of renewable energy. (or meet an "X" CAFE target value.)
          Let's take this metaphor a little bit further. Under current CAFE laws, auto manufactures that market their fleet of vehicles (having a fleet average miles per gallon figure better than the Federal CAFE target value) can then sell CAFE credits to other car companies who then can apply those bought CAFE credits towards meeting their Federal CAFE targets.
          The metaphor is: The Federal Government decrees all tech firms must use 100 percent renewable energy to power their facilities. Apple is a net exporter of clean power. They sell "clean power credits" to the grid for a profit. Their facilities are "Green". Google needs to purchase those "clean power credits" from the grid in order to meet the 100 percent renewable energy power use target because Google's facilities are "not as Green" as Apple's.
          Therefore, in that regard, Apple's facilities are more "Green" than Google's facilities even though both companies meet the 100 percent renewable energy requirement for their buildings. That was the distinction that I was trying to make.
  4. FullyLoaded

    I wonder how much different the chart would look if they included the facilities they outsourced their hardware production to?

Leave a Reply