Tag Archives: energy efficiency

Welcoming Internet Engine No. 15

Data centers are the engines of the Internet. As the next billion users come online—whether making payments from a mobile phone in Nairobi or sequencing DNA at Broad Institute in Boston—we need to increase our capacity to serve them, and keep things running blazing fast.

Today we’re announcing what will become our 15th global data center—we’re thrilled to be named new owners of the former Hemlock Semiconductor site in Montgomery County, Tennessee.

When selecting any site, we look at the unique attributes and base our designs around them to build the most efficient and high-performing data centers possible. For example, our newest data center in Alabama, U.S. will be built on the site of a coal power plant, and in Hamina, Finland we built on an old paper mill and use seawater as the sole cooling mechanism. 

The Hemlock site was originally developed as a Semiconductor manufacturing plant, but unfortunately was never completed. We’ll be able to re-use much of the existing infrastructure, and will recycle and re-design what we don’t. Based on our assessments, this site will be able to house new technologies we’re currently testing in research & development, which would make this data center the most technologically advanced in the world. 

We are excited to again be working with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), who will be our electricity provider at this site. Thanks to an arrangement with TVA we’ll be able to scout new renewable energy projects and work with them to bring that power onto their electrical grid; another step toward Google’s ultimate goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy. As the largest corporate energy purchaser in the world, we have signed 2 gigawatts of renewable energy supply contracts to offset the power used across our portfolio of data centers—equivalent to taking nearly 1 million cars off the road. 

It’s a real pleasure to be moving into this space, and to become a part of Montgomery County. Total investments in this project will amount to more than $600 million, and we’ll start engaging with city and county officials to launch a formal community grants program around three issues: science and technology education, clean energy, and access to the Internet. 

While opening a data center can take years, we can’t wait to get to the drawing board to design the next internet engine in our lineup. Good things come to those who wait!

Posted by Joe Kava, VP, Data Center Operations

Our annual carbon footprint update

Google has been a carbon neutral company for seven years, and every year around this time we calculate our carbon footprint so we can make sure to offset it completely. Today we’ve updated the Google Green website with our 2013 carbon footprint data so you can explore it for yourself.

For 2013, we reported a carbon footprint of 1.77 million metric tons to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Our gross carbon footprint was up slightly from 2012, but our data center efficiency initiatives, renewable energy purchases and high-quality carbon offset purchases brought our footprint back down to zero. We’re proud to report that our carbon intensity dropped for the fifth year in a row, down to 31.8 metric tons of CO2 / million dollars of revenue, a drop of 3.6% from 2012.

Last year when we posted our 2012 update we calculated that serving an active Google user for one month is like driving a car one mile. We updated our numbers and this calculation still holds true. To serve that user, Google emits about 8 grams of CO2 per day.

This annual update also provides a nice opportunity to look back on the steps we’ve taken over the past year as we’ve worked to reduce our environmental impact:
  • Data centers: We addressed efficiency, industry challenges and how to solve them at our “How Green is the Internet” summit in 2013. Being the most efficient is important to us, especially at our data centers where we use 50% of the energy of a typical data center.
  • Environmental certifications: We’re the first major Internet company in the U.S. to get multi-site ISO 50001 Energy Management System certification, for 9 data centers in the US and EU (so far).
  • Renewable energy: To date, we’ve signed long term contracts for over a gigawatt of renewable energy for our data centers and facilities. We have stayed true to our rigorous method for purchasing clean energy. We look for renewables when evaluating new locations and we factor an internal carbon price into our financial calculations.
  • Renewable energy tariff: We use renewable energy when we can, but because of some utilities’ rules, we don’t always have a choice. Last year we worked with Duke Energy, a major utility, to develop a “green source rider.” This gives the option for Google and other companies like us to purchase renewable energy directly from Duke. Google was the first customer to request and successfully receive this. We have detailed our approach to help others in the industry to do it too.
  • Carbon offsets: To bring our footprint to zero, we invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions at sources outside of Google. We're very picky to make sure that our investments have a positive impact - one that wouldn’t have happened without us.
  • Investments: We’ve also been hard at work bringing more clean energy to everyone. We’ve signed agreements to provide $1.5 billion in funding to renewable energy projects, like Ivanpah, which was named Plant of the Year for its innovative solar power tower technology. With our investments, we’re helping energize 2.5 GW of renewable energy across the world. That’s enough to power 500,000 homes and far more energy than we use as a company.

Overall, 35% of our energy for our operations—that includes offices, all of our data centers and other infrastructure—came from renewable sources last year. That’s an increase from the previous year, which is no mean feat given how quickly we’re growing as a company. To keep up with that growth, we’re continuing to sign new long-term energy contracts, like our recent 407 MW agreement with MidAmerican Energy. As these projects come online, the amount of energy we get from renewable sources will continue to grow.

Posted by Kelsey Vandermeulen, Program Manager, Carbon Offsets