Google Buying Clean Power from Iowa Wind Farm

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-07-20

Google on July 20 said it will purchase 114 megawatts of clean energy from a wind farm in Iowa at a predetermined rate for 20 years.

The company on July 30 will begin buying clean energy from NextEra Energy Resources in Iowa. The deal, detailed here, is the first of its kind for the Google Energy subsidiary.

Google expects to grab enough power to run several data centers. The company built dozens of data centers all over the world, loading them with commodity servers that power the company's search engine and Web services in parallel.

These applications consume massive amounts of power and the company has been working hard to reduce its carbon footprint, making its data centers as energy efficient as possible through water cooling and other techniques. The company also powers its Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif., with solar panels.

There are several reasons for procuring the clean power over the next two decades. By buying energy at a set rate, Google is protecting itself from boosts in power prices.

But the terms also give the wind farm financial certainty to build more clean energy projects at a time when financing for renewable energy developers has been scarce.

"We've been excited about this deal because taking 114 megawatts of wind power off the market for so long means producers have the incentive and means to build more renewable energy capacity for other customers," said Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president of operations for Google.

Google's agreement with NextEra comes more than two months after the company pumped $38.8 million into two NextEra wind farms in North Dakota. These farms generate enough wind energy for more than 55,000 homes.

Google gained the right to buy and sell power on regulated wholesale markets from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February.

A Google spokesperson explained the rationale for this move to eWEEK:

"Google is interested in procuring more renewable energy as part of our carbon neutrality commitment, and the ability to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market could give us more flexibility in doing so. We made this filing so we can have more flexibility in procuring power for Google's own operations, including our data centers."

The grant also allowed Google to "hedge its purchases of energy and incorporate renewables into its energy portfolio." The wind farm deal is an example of this goal.

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