February has been quite the month for Google Creep, that slow, steady spread of Google’s sphere of influence across all business sectors that directly or indirectly touch on the Web.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted Google the right to buy and resell electricity, fulfilling Google’s December request.
At a general level, Google is seeking to keep its large data centers fed with power. A Google spokesperson told me in January:
““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. This FERC authority would improve our ability to hedge our purchases of energy and incorporate renewables into our energy portfolio.”“
The request is common among companies that devour power, including the Wal-Mart retail and Safeway grocery store chains.
There is a certain poetry in Google’s case. Google is already a provider of utility computing — millions of people get search and Web services provisioned to their PCs thanks to Google. Now Google will fortify those utilities as a power utility provider.
Google has said it isn’t sure what it will do with its newfound authority. Methinks they know exactly what they’re going to do with it; they’re just being coy.
Of course, Google doesn’t own generation facilities or transmission lines to deliver power, but Google hadn’t always intended to build and test broadband networks, either.
With its power and broadband plays, Google is hedging, pushing the envelope of markets that are important to its business.
There is no guarantee these efforts will bear fruit over time, but don’t think that just because Google calls something a “test” that it’s not serious about it. All its products are released unfinished, but that doesn’t make Google’s beta tests any less important.
Google is even fighting to expand its real estate footprint around its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, proving that the rise of Google Creep in the digital world is bleeding over to the physical realm.
Where will Google go next?