Google Makes its Biggest Renewable Energy Purchase Yet
People stand in the lobby of Google’s Washington, DC, headquarters in January 2015. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Google Makes its Biggest Renewable Energy Purchase Yet

Contracts for 800-plus MW of wind and solar on three continents

As far as the general public is concerned, Google and its data centers have become synonymous with the internet, and when activists call for a greener internet, Google data centers are in the spotlight more than anyone else’s.

On the rare occasion that the public eye turns to the issue of carbon emissions associated with watching puppy videos, Google has a good story to tell. Today, that story got even stronger.

Timed to coincide with this week’s United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, Google announced that it has made its biggest renewable energy purchase to date. The company has agreed to buy 842 MW of wind and solar power globally to offset energy consumption of its 14 massive data center campuses.

The bulk of the generation capacity is in the US, where most of the company’s data centers are. Google has made three wind power deals with three separate developers in America – 200 MW, 200 MW, and 225 MW – and a 61 MW solar deal with Duke Energy, the largest utility in the country. Google announced the agreement with Duke in November.

The company also agreed to buy energy from an 80 MW of solar farm in Chile and 76 MW of wind power in Sweden.

As has been the case since 2010, when Google made its first utility-scale renewable energy purchase agreement, the long-term contracts, ranging from 10 to 20 years, provide developers with the necessary financing to build the massive solar and wind projects.

Google has been a pioneer in renewable energy purchasing among data center operators, devising complex schemes to make sure carbon emissions associated with powering its data centers are offset by renewable energy generation while at the same time ensuring the cost of energy makes business sense.

Other web-scale data center operators, companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon, have followed in Google’s footsteps, announcing similar deals. Major commercial data center providers recently started taking renewable energy a lot more seriously and made substantial financial commitments.

Google may be the most familiar internet company, but the bulk of the internet is powered by data centers around the world operated by those commercial providers, companies like Equinix, Interxion, TelecityGroup (in the process of being acquired by Equinix), and Digital Realty Trust.

Equinix has made massive renewable energy purchase agreements this year to offset its carbon emissions in the US, and Interxion has been one of the renewable-energy leaders among data center providers in Europe.

Digital Realty, whose specialty has been providing wholesale data center space – including to the likes of Equinix – offers its customers premium-free renewable energy anywhere in the world for one year.

Switch, which provides data center services to Google, Amazon, eBay, Intuit, and others, has made a commitment to powering its data centers with 100 percent renewable energy and invested in a 100 MW solar farm in Nevada.

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