Wind Energy to Power Google's California HQ

NextEra Energy will deliver 43 megawatts of electricity annually, enough wind energy to power Google's North Bayshore headquarters on an annual basis.

green data center

Over the years, Google has taken considerable pride in its efforts to make company data centers greener. The Internet behemoth says its data centers already use 50 percent less energy than those belonging to other companies, and it has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars over the years in making them even more environmentally friendly.

This week, Google announced another investment in clean energy that will help reduce the company's carbon footprint even further. Google has entered into a long-term agreement with NextEra Energy Resources under which the Bay Area wind farm will supply enough wind energy to power Google's North Bayshore headquarters on an annual basis.

As part of the agreement, NextEra will install new turbines at its wind farm in California's Altamont Pass that will generate an estimated 43 megawatts of electricity starting 2016. NextEra will flow the energy through the section of the California power grid that supplies electricity to Google's headquarters. The company will measure the output from NextEra's turbines against the electricity consumption at the datacenter to ensure that its energy needs are being completely offset by the wind farm.

A member of Google's press team said the company is not disclosing financial details of the new arrangement. But Google's vice president of real estate and workplace services David Radcliffe touted the agreement as the first of its kind involving a Google office facility rather than a datacenter.

"Since our first wind investment in 2010, we've developed close relationships with renewable energy providers, helping us secure renewable energy agreements like this one for our campus and data centers," Radcliffe wrote. Google currently has investments in 17 utility-scale renewable energy projects accounting for more than 1.1 gigawatt's worth of energy, he said.

The new Google partnership will allow NextEra to completely revamp its current 1980s era wind farm at Altamont Pass, Radcliffe added. The farm, which was a test bed for the first large-scale deployment of wind energy technology in the United States, will replace its 370 existing wind turbines with 24 new turbines that will be capable of addressing Google's annual energy needs at its North Bayshore headquarters.

The NextEra investment is the second major green energy project that Google has announced in recent months. Last September, Google disclosed plans to sink more than $700 million in a new "hyper efficient" data center in Eemshaven, the Netherlands. The data center will be 'free-cooled' meaning it will use cool air and gray water to cool data center servers. The company has said it plans to run the datacenter on renewable energy.

Google has three other similar facilities in Europe and the company plans on building three more in Dublin, Hamina, Finland and St. Ghislain, Belgium.

Google's efforts to cut energy costs, particularly at its datacenters address a critical need.

The environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, has pointed to data centers as being one of the largest and fastest growing energy consumers in the U.S. The Council estimates that U.S. data centers consumed a staggering 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013, or roughly enough energy to power all households in New York city twice over. It estimates that energy consumption by data centers is on track to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2012.

"Some large server farms operated by well-known Internet brands provide shining examples of ultra-efficient data centers," the council had noted in an apparent nod to the efforts of companies like Google. "Yet small, medium and corporate data centers are responsible for the vast majority of data center energy consumption and are generally much less efficient."

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.