Hewlett-Packard over the next dozen years will buy wind power to run all of its data centers in Texas, the latest move by a major tech company to increase the amount of renewable energy used in their operations.
HP officials announced July 21 that the company has signed a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunEdison, which will supply 112 megawatts of wind power. That will be enough to meet the electricity demands of all five of HP's Texas data centers—which collectively cover about 1.5 million square feet—and is the equivalent of powering 42,600 homes each year, they said.
It also will keep more than 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually from being emitted into the air.
"This agreement represents the latest step we are taking on HP's journey to reduce our carbon footprint across our entire value chain, while creating a stronger, more resilient company and a sustainable world," Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president and chief progress officer for HP's Corporate Affairs office, said in a statement.
The deal also will enable HP to beat its goal of reducing its operational greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent of 2010 levels by 2020. Now the company will be able to hit that goal by the end of its fiscal year 2015.
For SunEdison, the money from HP will enable the company to begin construction of a facility—the South Plain II wind farm in Texas—which eventually generate 300 MW of power. Once the wind farm opens next year, TerraForm Power, which operates clean energy power plants, will buy the facility which will be run and managed by SunEdison Services.
As the number of data centers has rapidly grown over the past decade or so and the amount of power they use has risen, businesses and tech companies have been under increasing pressure to find ways to reduce the energy they consume. According to a recent report from the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), data centers in the United States consumed 78 megawatt hours of power in 2010, or 2 percent of the total electricity demand in the United States. That number grew to 91 million MWh three years later, or 2.4 percent of U.S. demand.
The report noted that the power consumption by the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is continuing to grow, but added that while the level of use is "substantial … recent adoptions of cloud computing services, co-location data centers, and other less energy-intensive equipment and operations have likely reduced the rate of growth in this sector."
The ICT industry includes not only data centers, but also end-user devices and the telecommunications sector, according to the NREL.
The agency also noted how ICT vendors are increasingly turning to renewable electricity for their operations, though their use of green power varies. Among the tech companies that report their use, some like Intel, SAP America, and Workday all get 100 percent of their electricity through renewables—Adobe Systems topped the list at 234 percent—while others like IBM (4 percent), Freescale (3 percent) and Verizon Communications (1 percent) are at the lower end.
HP currently gets 14 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
Tech vendors and cloud providers are continuing to grow their use of renewable sources of energy. This year, Google announced that NextEra Energy Resources will install new turbines at its wind farm in California that will generate about 43 megawatts of electricity starting 2016 that will be used to Google's headquarters, while Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it will build a wind farm in North Carolina to not only power its data centers, but also local neighborhoods.
They also are looking at solar power. Apple in February announced it will spend $848 million over 25 years to buy solar power to run corporate offices, stores and other sites in California. In June, Cisco Systems said it, too, was going to buy solar power for its headquarters and AWS said it will have an 80 MW solar farm built in Virginia.