Google data centers in Europe are now one huge step closer to being fully powered by renewable energy.
The internet giant has agreed to buy the entire future output of two windfarms currently under construction in Norway and Sweden. The 50-turbine project in Norway will be the largest windfarm in the country, and the deal represents Google’s largest renewable energy purchase agreement in Europe to date.
Google is one of a handful of the biggest tech companies that have been making huge investments in development of new renewable energy projects to compensate for regular grid energy their massive data centers consume around the world. Facebook and Microsoft have made data center-related power purchase agreements of similar magnitude, but Google pioneered among data center operators the practice of long-term utility-scale power purchase agreements that provide the financial security these development projects require to proceed while securing static long-term renewable energy rates.
Data centers consume a lot of energy. In the US alone, they use about 70 billion kilowatt-hours annually, or 2 percent of the country’s entire energy consumption, according to a recently published study by the US Department of Energy.
While the growth of its energy consumption has slowed down substantially in recent years, due primarily to efficiency improvements, the industry’s energy footprint is enormous and will continue growing into the foreseeable future. As it grows, there has been pressure on data center operators in recent years, especially well-known companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon, to reduce the environmental impact of their operations.
Combined, Google’s two windfarms in the Nordics will have the capacity to generate 236MW of power, Marc Orman, the company’s EU energy lead, wrote in a blog post announcing the agreements. The company has now made seven power purchase agreements in Europe (four of them in Sweden), which total more than 500MW.
Globally, Google has made 18 such deals to date, totaling 2.5 gigawatts of renewable generation capacity. The company has a goal of powering its operations by 100 percent renewable energy.
The 50-turbine Norway project is expected to come online late next year, while the Swedish project, a 22-turbine windfarm, will be completed by early 2018, according to Orman.
“In both cases, we’ve signed long-term contracts that give us price certainty and help wind farm developers secure construction financing, in these cases from companies like Blackrock and Ardian,” Orman wrote.
There are four Google data center campuses in Europe: in Dublin; Eemshaven, Netherlands; Hamina, Finland; and St. Ghislain, Belgium. The company also has a global content caching network that lives primarily in leased colocation data centers, but it doesn’t disclose their location.
The biggest Google data center footprint is in the US, where the company owns and operates eight massive data center campuses in rural towns in Iowa, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Oregon. There are is also one Google data center in Latin America (in Chile), and two in Asia, in Taiwan and Singapore.