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Google to run on 100 per cent renewable energy from 2017

Google has announced that 100 per cent of its global operations will run on renewable energy sources by next year.

The search giant has considerable energy requirements due to its data centres that are located around the world to process requests to its main site and subsidiaries, such as YouTube.

“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,” the company said in a blog post. 

“Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities.”

Google also claims its data centres are 50 per cent more efficient than the industry average due to years of energy saving research conducted by its engineers.

To reach its goal, the company will purchase “enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity that its operations consume, globally”.

This suggests that while some of its facilities may continue to run on electricity produced from other sources, it will purchase enough renewable energy in countries where the infrastructure is in place to counteract this.

“Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option,” Google said.

“Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centres, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.”

“To date, our purchasing commitments will result in infrastructure investments of more than $3.5bn (£2.75bn) globally, about two-thirds of that in the United States. 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.”

Google said it now intends to broaden its purchases into other forms of renewable energy generation so that it can maintain a consistent power flow when, for example, the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

The company has also produced a chart demonstrating its commitment to renewables in comparison to rivals such as Apple and Amazon.

It demonstrates that while Google uses far more renewable energy than these companies, it is powered largely by wind while company’s such as Apple and Amazon derive a larger proportion of their electricity from solar sources.

Google launched Project Sunroof earlier this year that uses Google Earth imagery to inform homeowners about how much money they could save on electricity bills by installing solar panels on their rooves. 

According to newly released figures in the 2015 Renewable Energy Data Book, renewable electricity in the US has grown to 16.7 per cent of total installed capacity. The figures are published annually by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on behalf of the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The figures also showed that renewable electricity accounted for 64 per cent of US electricity capacity additions in 2015, compared to 52 per cent in 2014.

Hydropower produced more than 44 per cent of total renewable electricity generation, wind produced 34 per cent, biomass produced 11 per cent, solar (photovoltaic and concentrating solar power) produced 8 per cent, and geothermal produced 3 per cent.

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