renewable electricity

Google matches its total electricity needs with renewables

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Google has announced that it now purchases more renewable electricity than the total amount that it uses to power its services.

The company set itself a goal of meeting 100 per cent of its 2017 energy requirements through renewables at the beginning of last year.

“We just completed the accounting for Google’s 2017 energy use and it’s official—we met our goal,” Urs Hölzle, the search giant’s vice president of technical infrastructure, said in a blog post.

“Google’s total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar exceeded the amount of electricity used by our operations around the world, including offices and data centers,” he writes in a blog post.

“What do we mean by “matching” renewable energy? Over the course of 2017, across the globe, 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.”

The company currently has contracts to buy around 3GW of output from renewable sources, a larger amount than any other corporate purchaser, Hölzle said.

Google’s renewable energy contracts have so far led to over $3bn (£2.1bn) in new capital investment around the world.

“From the time we sign a contract, it takes one to two years to build the wind farm or solar field before it begins producing energy,” Hölzle said.

“In 2016, our operational projects produced enough renewables to cover 57 per cent of the energy we used from global utilities.

“That same year, we signed a record number of new contracts for wind and solar developments that were still under construction.

“Those projects began operating in 2017—and that additional output of renewable energy was enough to cover more than 100 per cent of what we used during the whole year.

Hölzle admits that while Google has “matched” its energy requirements with electricity produced from renewable sources, this doesn’t mean that the company’s operations are only using energy produced from them.

Instead it has made sure that for every kilowatt-hour of energy it consumes it adds a matching kilowatt-hour of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere even if that’s produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where its data centres and offices are run from.

“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,” Hölzle said.

As the company’s operations grow he anticipates that it will purchase increasing amounts of renewables to power them.

He also wants to get to a point where renewables and other carbon-free energy sources eventually power Google’s operations directly.

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