Google Says Renewable Energy Purchases Exceeded Consumption In 2017

Google's data centers continue to use both renewable and non-renewable energy, but company moving closer to 100 percent clean energy use.

Google Renewable Energy Purchases

As a company that operates multiple hyperscale data centers around the world Google has been on a mission in recent years to cut down on its energy consumption and carbon footprint. 

For the first time since the effort began, Google purchased in 2017 enough energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar to exceed the total amount of energy consumed by its data centers around the world. 

For each kilowatt-hour of energy that Google consumed—from renewable and non-renewable sources combined—the company purchased a matching amount or more of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm. 

To be clear, Google datacenters continued—and will likely continue for some time—to be powered by energy from both non-renewable and renewable sources. But for every kilowatt-hour it consumes Google has started adding a matching kilowatt-hour or more of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere. 

Currently, Google signed contracts to purchase a total 3 gigawatts of power from renewable sources making it the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure Urs Holzle claimed in a blog April 4. 

"No corporate purchaser buys more renewable energy than we do," Holzle said. "To date, our renewable energy contracts have led to over $3 billion in new capital investment around the world." 

Starting with a 2010 agreement to buy all electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, Google has over the years entered into several long-term renewable energy purchase contracts with entities in several countries. The company's 20 renewable energy projects are spread across the U.S., South America and Europe. Google's commitment to buy a total of 3GW of wind and solar sourced energy is larger than many major utilities, Holzle has previously pointed out. 

In addition to sourcing energy from renewable sources Google has taken other measures in recent years to reduce its carbon footprint. The company has said it eventually wants all of its data centers to be powered exclusively by renewable energy. Many of the new data centers it is building around the world include the use of alternative cooling approaching such as seawater cooling and evaporative cooling. 

Google has also committed to exploring the use of artificial intelligence technology to identify opportunities for reducing data center energy usage. Under this effort, the company is developing models for efficient energy use in its data centers using historical data gathered from temperature sensors, pumps and other data center equipment. Over the years, the efforts have resulted in Google's data centers being 50 percent more power efficient than data centers of comparable size, according to the company. 

Google is certainly not alone in its efforts to go green. Amazon too has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy over the next few years. Like Google it has invested in several solar and wind farms that together have the capacity to deliver 2.6GW of energy annually to the grid powering Amazon's massive data centers across the U.S. 

Microsoft, another of Google's cloud rivals has committed to ensuring that 50 percent of the energy used by its data centers by the end of this year will be from renewable sources. The company has said it hopes to raise that mark to 60 percent early in the next decade. 

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.