Google Supports Renewable Energy


This article was published by Newsletter, issue #38, 2007-12-01.

With a growing number of enormous data centers located in many parts of the world, Google understandably has a strong interest in energy availability and usage. Tremendous amounts of electricity are needed to power all of the company's server farms — for keeping those countless hard drive spinning, and keeping the servers cool. Electricity is also needed for powering their other facilities, including the Googleplex, the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California. In October 2006, Google announced a large-scale commitment to using solar energy at the facility, and initiated the installation of more than 9200 solar panels, which will eventually generate 1600 kilowatts — 30 percent of the electricity consumed by the buildings. As of this writing, over 90 percent of the solar panels have been installed, and they now cover most of the rooftop areas of eight buildings and two carports at the Googleplex — making it the most extensive solar panel installation on a corporate campus in the United States. The company's Solar Panel Project page offers an aerial photo of the complex, showing the massive rooftop panels, as well as an up-to-date graph and figures for the number of kilowatt-hours generated. On a daily basis, they are already generating over 1000 kilowatts. As of 18 June 2007, more than 604 megawatt-hours have been provided by those solar panels.

On 12 June 2007, the company announced the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which is a joint effort with more than 30 organizations — including Dell, EDS, the EPA, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, and the World Wildlife Fund — to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, by utilizing more energy-efficient computers and other computer equipment. Just six days later,, Google's philanthropic operation, announced its RechargeIT project, whose goals are to accelerate the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, as well as vehicle-to-grid technologies — in order to reduce consumption of oil for generating electricity, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and to provide needed electricity back to the grid. Google is not only funding research by others, but also converting their own fleet of hybrid vehicles into plug-in hybrids. These vehicles, Toyota Priuses, achieve over 66 miles per gallon, over 115 watt-hours per mile, and have approximately 65 percent fewer CO2 emissions.

On 27 November 2007, Google furthered its goal to become green, by announcing a new project for the development of renewable energy sources that are cheaper than coal — hence its name, RE<C (renewal energy less than coal). The project is first focusing on the areas of advanced solar thermal power, wind power, and geothermal systems. Google anticipates investing tens of millions of dollars on research and development during 2008, and will be working with R&D laboratories, universities, and other commercial firms.

These efforts may be the first steps in this Internet giant's transformation into a green energy/computing giant.

Copyright © 2007 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.

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