Report: Google Eyes Kansas for Data Center

Reports of a possible wind-powered Google data center project in Greensburg, Kansas are not accurate, the company says.

UPDATE: The reports by NPR and local media of a possible Google data center in Greensburg, Kansas are not accurate, according to Google. "Currently we are not planning on building a facility in this area," said Google spokesperson Sunny Gettinger. "As a company, we are committed to continuing to look for ways to improve our energy efficiency and to be greener as a company, including exploring wind powered options, but have nothing to announce at this time."

There are reports tonight that Google is exploring a wind-powered data center project in a Kansas town that was destroyed by a tornado earlier this year. Officials in Greensburg, Kansas are seeking to rebuild their community as the "greenest town in America." An architect working to help rebuild the town says Google is studying a site in Greensburg as a potential location for a 20-megawatt windmill-powered data center.

On May 4, an F5 tornado destroyed 95 percent of the structures in Greensburg, killing 10 people and displacing more than 1,400 residents. In the wake of the disaster, local non-profit group Greensburg GreenTown is leading an effort to rebuild using eco-friendly construction. On Dec. 17, Greensburg adopted a resolution for city owned buildings to be built to the LEED Platinum standard, the highest rating of the U.S. Green Buildings Council.

BNIM Architects told local media that Google is considering building a 20 megawatt wind-powered data center in Greensburg. Bob Berkebile, a partner with Kansas city-based BNIM, said Google is "currently doing feasibility studies on the possibility" of a Greensburg location. Reports of Google's interest have also been mentioned in an NPR report (link via ServerSpecs).

Google's interest in wind power is well-documented. The company is currently using a windmill farm to provide some of the energy to power its data center facility in the Netherlands. A portion of the electricity for Google's Council Bluffs, Iowa data center comes from windmills operated by MidAmerican Energy.


Google has sought a leadership role in clean energy and energy efficiency. In early 2007 the company announced that it would be carbon neutral for 2007 and beyond, and says it is "on track to meet this goal." It also co-founded an industry consortium, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, to advocate for "less wasteful computing infrastructure" such as high-efficiency power supplies. Last month Google announced RE-C, an initiative to develop electricity from renewable sources cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The project's initial focus is on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies and geothermal systems.

A wind-powered data center facility in the U.S. could provide a testbed for new technologies. Google's foundation, Google.org, is working with Makani Power, a California company seeking to harness high-altitude wind energy to produce cheap renewable energy.

Any development projects in Greensburg could gain considerable goodwill and visibility. The Discovery Channel's new Planet Green channel will feature Greensburg in a new program called "Greensburg Eco-Town," which will document the town's efforts to rebuild from the tornado. The show is being produced by actor Leonardo DiCaprio and his production company, Appian Way.

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