Tag Archives: Green

Renewable Energy Adoption Takes a New Turn with Partnership in the Netherlands

At Google, we have been committed to the adoption of clean energy since 2010, and are working aggressively to meet our goal of powering 100 percent of our operations with renewable energy.


We are excited to announce a unique partnership that Google has formed in the Netherlands with three leading companies, allowing us to significantly contribute to delivering on the Dutch renewable energy target of 14 percent by 2020, agreed to in the 2013 Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth.


Together with AkzoNobel, DSM, and Philips, we’ve made a long-term agreement to jointly source power from renewable energy projects. The consortium represents a new approach for corporations to explore market opportunities, enter into renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and meet the demands of growing sustainability targets in a cost-effective and scalable way.


The first agreement of the long-term collaboration purchases the entire power production from a new wind farm established by a cooperative of 4,000 people in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Five percent of the power production will be reserved for the shareholders, with each company receiving a quarter share of the remaining 95 percent of energy. It’s the first time in the Netherlands that a group of multinational companies has teamed up with local citizens to create what is effectively a consumer-to-business energy partnership.


The consortium has agreed to source a total of 0.35 terawatt hours (TWh) a year from Windpark Krammer once it becomes fully operational in 2019. This is equivalent to the total annual consumption of 100,000 households.


The agreement is both crucial for the funding of the wind farm and for the renewable energy goals of all four companies. For Google, this agreement will allow our data center in Eemshaven to be powered with renewable energy from day one when it opens later this year.


Our participation in this consortium is part of our broader global strategy to procure renewable energy for our data centers, and build on similar agreements signed in other countries. Google now has six PPAs in the Nordics, seven in Europe, and 19 globally.


Additionally, we have purchased 148 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy in Sweden, to supply our European data centers with renewable energy. This PPA will secure 70 percent of the production over ten years of this 41-turbine wind farm located in Lehtirova, northern Sweden. Each new wind farm is being built in one of the best areas for onshore wind in Europe. Thanks to Europe’s increasingly integrated energy market, we’re able to buy wind energy in Norway and Sweden, and consume it elsewhere in Europe.

As the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world, we are thrilled to be joining forces with these leading companies in the Netherlands. By working together, we can realize a clean energy future–faster than ever.

Renewable energy adoption takes a new turn with partnership in the Netherlands

At Google, we have been committed to the adoption of clean energy since 2010, and are working aggressively to meet our goal of powering 100 percent of our operations with renewable energy.

We are excited to announce a unique partnership that Google has formed in the Netherlands with three leading companies, allowing us to significantly contribute to delivering on the Dutch renewable energy target of 14 percent by 2020, agreed to in the 2013 Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth.

Together with AkzoNobel, DSM, and Philips, we’ve made a long-term agreement to jointly source power from renewable energy projects. The consortium represents a new approach for corporations to explore market opportunities, enter into renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and meet the demands of growing sustainability targets in a cost-effective and scalable way.

The first agreement of the long-term collaboration purchases the entire power production from a new wind farm established by a cooperative of 4,000 people in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Five percent of the power production will be reserved for the shareholders, with each company receiving a quarter share of the remaining 95 percent of energy. It’s the first time in the Netherlands that a group of multinational companies has teamed up with local citizens to create what is effectively a consumer-to-business energy partnership.

The consortium has agreed to source a total of 0.35 terawatt hours (TWh) a year from Windpark Krammer once it becomes fully operational in 2019. This is equivalent to the total annual consumption of 100,000 households.

The agreement is both crucial for the funding of the wind farm and for the renewable energy goals of all four companies. For Google, this agreement will allow our data center in Eemshaven to be powered with renewable energy from day one when it opens later this year.

Our participation in this consortium is part of our broader global strategy to procure renewable energy for our data centers, and build on similar agreements signed in other countries. Google now has six PPAs in the Nordics, seven in Europe, and 19 globally.

Additionally, we have purchased 148 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy in Sweden, to supply our European data centers with renewable energy. This PPA will secure 70 percent of the production over ten years of this 41-turbine wind farm located in Lehtirova, northern Sweden. Each new wind farm is being built in one of the best areas for onshore wind in Europe. Thanks to Europe’s increasingly integrated energy market, we’re able to buy wind energy in Norway and Sweden, and consume it elsewhere in Europe.

As the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world, we are thrilled to be joining forces with these leading companies in the Netherlands. By working together, we can realize a clean energy future–faster than ever.

Google launches healthy building materials Tool to change an industry

At Google, we are committed to creating the healthiest work environment possible and using building products that promote human and environmental health and transparency. Inspired by this challenge, we have been making great strides toward giving everyone access to the information needed to understand human and environmental impacts of materials so we can make healthy decisions backed by science. This means you can know all the ingredients of every product in your environment──from the chair you are sitting in, to the paint you purchased for your living room──just like the nutrition labels on the food you buy at your neighborhood grocery store.

While a robust framework for gathering product information is important; it is also critical to build processes and tools that can be used to select and specify healthy materials. Embracing this challenge to serve the scale at which Google operates resulted in the creation of Portico, an online web application that Google developed in partnership with non-profit partner Healthy Building Network (HBN).

Since 2015, Google has been testing Portico on internal design and construction projects and using it to establish and communicate the company’s values and priorities around human health, informing decisions that meet Google’s healthy materials criteria, and product scoring based on reliable and transparent manufacturer supplied data. To-date, we have used Portico on over 195 projects in 20 countries and over 1,500 project team members and 5,000 manufacturers participating, contributing to a growing database of over 2,500 products that have satisfied Google’s healthy material requirements.

Based on the successes from this internal testing, Google and HBN have announced today the expansion of Portico with the addition of four new partners: Harvard University, Perkins + Will, The Durst Organization and HomeFree Affordable Housing (an HBN-led affordable housing consortium). As industry thought leaders, this group of organizations have adopted Portico as a critical tool to support their mission and commitment for creating a healthy built environment.
REWS building interior 02

Portico was created to bridge the gap in the marketplace with a platform that combines a product database and collaborative workflow tools, built on an open source mode. The goal was to create a place where the information could be gathered in a sharable format that could then be searched and interpreted by anyone using the tool.

Furthermore, the tool itself can host a diverse set of applications that are built based on the needs of its end users. This is powerful. With Portico, instead of being limited by how the data can be used and shared, the tool offers an opportunity to expand the boundaries of the problems that data can solve, making it possible for the building industry community to ask more audacious questions and solve more complex problems than any individual or organization alone.

Over the next year, Google will be working closely with these partners to continue evolving and expanding Portico so it is able to solve critical problems beyond the needs of a set of organizations. By leveraging the power of technology to continue to optimize and develop the platform, Portico can be used at the ecosystem scale. With this incremental step of opening Portico to a group of partners other than Google, we hope to build a future where individuals and organizations of any size are able to have open access to information that is essential to creating environments that are optimized for human and environmental health. This bright future is not only a win for Google but for many generations to come.

Can you run a data center without waste? We are now in Singapore and Taiwan

Did you know that Singapore is projected to run out of landfill space by 2035? According to the Singaporean government, every year 200,000 tons of solid waste and ash are received at the Semakau landfill. That’s a lot of trash – equivalent to the weight of 18 Eiffel towers, 25,000 elephants or 100,000 houses.

Today, we’re excited to announce that none of that waste comes directly from our data center here in Singapore (or, to landfills in Taiwan, from our data center there). That’s because both our Singapore and Taiwan data centers have reached a 100% landfill diversion rate, in line with a global commitment we’ve made to achieve “zero waste to landfill” for our data centers globally.

This zero waste to landfill effort is part of a broader goal we have at Google to weavecircular economy principles into everything we do. That means instead of using raw resources (timber and ore, for example) to create new products, we keep materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished, or recycled.

So how do we accomplish this at our data centers here in Asia, where our servers that help millions of people across the region Search, keep in touch over Gmail and stream millions of hours of YouTube a day need constant upgrading and maintenance?

To start, before we buy any new equipment or materials, we look for ways to reuse what we already have. Last year, more than half of the components we used for machine upgrades were from refurbished inventory. With the remaining equipment, we resold most into secondary markets for reuse by other organizations, and we recycled a small percentage of un-reusable hardware.

That covers the machines, but what about everything else? To reduce daily waste, we encourage Googlers to be environmentally conscious. We make recycling very easy by placing waste sorting bins like the below throughout the facilities in strategic locations.

recycling
Sorting cans in Singapore on top, and food and other waste sorting bins in Taiwan on bottom

For the small amount of waste that is still produced locally, we use our own trash disposal systems like this trash compactor at our facility in Singapore:

compactor

In addition to our two facilities in Asia, four of our other data centers in Europe and the U.S. -- nearly half -- have achieved 100% landfill diversion of all waste to date. And we’re committed to achieving zero waste at the rest of our data centers soon. As my colleague Jim Miller observed, it’s just the kind of challenge that excites us.

Trimming our waste-line: the moonshot to zero

The current economy is built on waste and is extremely energy-intensive. It’s essentially “linear”—we dig up some materials, turn that into a product, ship it to an "end user," who eventually tosses it in the trash. But recent data shows that in 2015, global demand for resources was equivalent to 1.5 times what Earth can support in one year. Quite clearly, a linear economy is unsustainable.

We should instead be moving toward a “circular” economy: That means instead of using raw resources (think timber and ore) to create new products, we keep materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished or recycled. We already do this in some places: Think of when cotton clothing is reused first as second-hand apparel, then crosses to the furniture industry as fiber-fill in upholstery, which is later reused in stone wool insulation for construction. But there are many more opportunities for businesses to change their use and reuse of resources.

How we do it.

Google & The Circular Economy

At Google, we’ve been working on weaving circular economy principles into our operations and have evidence that we don’t need to sacrifice one shade of green for another. By applying these approaches to our server management, we have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in material costs.

To date, six of our operating Google data centers—nearly half—have achieved 100 percent landfill diversion of all waste. In fact, our data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma, is our first Google data center to officially reach Zero Waste to Landfill

Today, we are committing to achieve zero waste in all our data centers globally—an ambitious goal and just the kind of challenge that excites us. Although the last 10 to 20 percent of diversion will be the most difficult to solve, it is also where we see the most opportunity to get creative about new community partnerships and designing waste streams out all together.

Here’s how we’re doing it: Google’s data centers work 24/7 to deliver Gmail to a billion users and stream hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos a day. This means we are constantly upgrading and maintaining our servers to make sure we meet the increasing demand for our products around the world. Before we buy new equipment and materials, we look for ways to reuse what we already have. When we can’t find a new use for our equipment, we completely erase any components that store data, and then resell them into the market—giving them a second life. In 2015, 52 percent of components used for machine upgrades were refurbished inventory and Google resold nearly 2 million units into the secondary market for reuse by other organizations. The small percentage of hardware that we can’t reuse or resell gets recycled. Which means none of the waste that leaves these data centers goes to a landfill.

Google_worker.jpg
Data center engineer refurbishing a server component
It’s not just data centers; there are many ways we can rethink how we treat waste, from electronics to cars to food. We are sharing how we made this happen in our data centers to help system operators at other companies find their own way to adopt similar practices.

In addition to material efficiency, we are dedicated to energy efficiency and the use of clean power to operate our data centers. Compared to five years ago, we now get around 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy. Today, we are the largest, non-utility, corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world. This means businesses that use our cloud-based products are greener too; a typical organization can see carbon and energy savings in their IT infrastructure between 65 to 85%.

Our offices have also been looking at innovative ways to design out waste. For example, in the Bay Area we have already achieved an 86 percent landfill diversion rate. In addition to our large-scale composting program, we use a software system called LeanPath in our kitchens to track pre-consumer food waste (expired items, over-produced, spoiled, etc.). At our Bay Area campuses alone, this system has prevented more than 392,492 pounds of food going into the waste stream over the past year. Additionally, our imperfect produce initiative has utilized 330,000 pounds of produce in the Bay area that would have gone to waste, in turn wasting the land, water, energy, and other resources necessary to develop that produce.

GettyImages-534612666.jpg
Imperfect produce served in Google cafes reduces waste and tastes delicious in soups and stews
Google is also utilizing as much as possible from every ingredient. One example is piloting the use of an innovative food product known as Coffee Flour. A growing number of our kitchens now serve baked goods and other foods made with a flour derived from traditionally discarded parts of a coffee plant—the coffee cherry. We are going beyond what is typical and bringing those items into our nutritious food offerings.

Ultimately, this massive shift requires global businesses to lead the way to reduce our dependence on primary materials and fossil fuels. But the good news is, a shift like this isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for bottom lines. In the 2015 study “Growth Within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe,” the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey and SUN estimated that shifting to a circular economy could be worth €1.8 trillion to Europe by 2030. Recent research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests that €1.2 trillion of that overall potential comes from the information and communications technology sector. This kind of value can be unlocked globally and gains are anticipated to be even larger in the US.

Becoming circular is something we hope all companies will commit to, together. It is certainly a challenge to change in the way we make things and use them, but it's not impossible. And, in the end, it pays—in our own bottom lines, in our broader economy, and in the environment we all share together.

Six Google Data Centers are Diverting 100% of Waste from Landfill

Rachel Futrell, Technical Program Manager, Data Center Sustainability

Sustainability doesn’t end with a really low PUE for our data centers. Sustainability is an important business practice we strive to incorporate into all areas of our operations. A key part of this is how resources are managed. Here we define resources as the “things” that make up our data centers—both the buildings themselves, as well as all the stuff inside. This includes the waste that is generated at a data center—it’s a resource too. The more material we can reduce and use sustainably, the more effective and efficient our operations will be.

Over the past few years we’ve started focusing downstream on what resources we’re generating via waste. We’ve been working towards zero waste to landfill at our facilities, as well as reducing the amount of waste we’re generating. Today, we are announcing a new commitment to achieve Zero Waste to Landfill for our global data center operations.

At Google, Zero Waste to Landfill means that when waste leaves our data centers, none of it goes to a landfill—100 percent is diverted to a more sustainable pathway, with no more than 10% of it going to a waste-to-energy facility, unless waste-to-energy can be proved more valuable than alternative diversion paths. Our approach is based off the standard created by UL Environment who we partnered with to ensure the guidelines we created for our facilities were aligned and compliant with how UL defines and monitors the process.

Six of our 14 sites are achieving 100 percent diversion rates. Globally across our data center operations we are diverting at least 86 percent of waste away from landfills. At our operating data centers in Europe and APAC we have reached 100 percent diversion from landfill which currently includes a contribution from waste to energy of greater than 10 percent. These data centers include: Dublin, Ireland; Hamina, Finland; St Ghislain, Belgium; Changhua County, Taiwan and Singapore. As we continue to implement new diversion strategies and ways to design waste out altogether that percentage will decrease.

Our data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma is our first Google data center to reach Zero Waste to Landfill.

So, how did we get here, where have we had big successes? There have been a couple of themes for success. Find projects that do double duty—those that not only reduce or divert waste, but also have an added benefit, like energy savings or improved process efficiency. For example, our Mayes County data center has deployed compactors to help manage waste. Not only does it help divert waste more effectively, it also gives us accurate weight data for tracking, reduces the number of pick-ups our vendor has to make (saving us and them time and money) and is cleaner overall for the site (reducing how much janitorial work is needed).

Second, sometimes you don’t have to eliminate a waste stream or find a new diversion pathway to reduce the amount of waste, instead you can also look at extending it’s life—then you’re buying less and disposing of less. The same concepts we apply to server management, we apply to our maintenance operations to keep the data centers up and running.

Third, expect the unexpected, waste streams do not stay the same, they change and evolve over time depending on your operations. Be prepared for random new waste products and be flexible. Frequently the last 10 to 20 percent of waste diversion can be the hardest to solve, but understanding these processes is critical to success.

We’ve learned a lot along this journey and will continue to learn more—the effort certainly has not been wasteful. Zero waste to landfill requires a careful attention to the types of materials you’re generating and a deep understanding of your resource pathways. All these learnings allow us to keep pushing towards zero waste to landfill, but also to start looking upstream to add circular economy practices into our operations. Zero waste to landfill is just the first step in a long process to sustainably manage our resources throughout the entire lifecycle of our data centers.

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Example of the compactor used on-site
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From our Mayes County Data Center: Clear and fun signage in our cafes help make sure waste ends up in the right location
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Even the android pitches in to make sure waste is sorted correctly and gets to the right spot

Trimming Our Waste-line: The Moonshot to Zero

Jim Miller, vice president of global operations at Google

The current economy is built on waste and is extremely energy-intensive. It’s essentially “linear”—we dig up some materials, turn that into a product, ship it to an "end user," who eventually tosses it in the trash. But recent data shows that in 2015, global demand for resources was equivalent to 1.5 times what Earth can support in one year. Quite clearly, a linear economy is unsustainable.

We should instead be moving toward a “circular” economy: That means instead of using raw resources (think timber and ore) to create new products, we keep materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished or recycled. We already do this in some places: Think of when cotton clothing is reused first as second-hand apparel, then crosses to the furniture industry as fiber-fill in upholstery, which is later reused in stone wool insulation for construction. But there are many more opportunities for businesses to change their use and reuse of resources.

The circular approach to server management

At Google, we’ve been working on weaving circular economy principles into our operations and have evidence that we don’t need to sacrifice one shade of green for another. By applying these approaches to our server management, we have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in material costs.

To date, six of our operating Google data centers—nearly half—have achieved 100 percent landfill diversion of all waste. In fact, our data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma, is our first Google data center to officially reach Zero Waste to Landfill

Today, we are committing to achieve zero waste in all our data centers globally—an ambitious goal and just the kind of challenge that excites us. Although the last 10 to 20 percent of diversion will be the most difficult to solve, it is also where we see the most opportunity to get creative about new community partnerships and designing waste streams out all together.

Here’s how we’re doing it: Google’s data centers work 24/7 to deliver Gmail to a billion users and stream hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos a day. This means we are constantly upgrading and maintaining our servers to make sure we meet the increasing demand for our products around the world. Before we buy new equipment and materials, we look for ways to reuse what we already have. When we can’t find a new use for our equipment, we completely erase any components that store data, and then resell them into the market—giving them a second life. In 2015, 52 percent of components used for machine upgrades were refurbished inventory and Google resold nearly 2 million units into the secondary market for reuse by other organizations. The small percentage of hardware that we can’t reuse or resell gets recycled. Which means none of the waste that leaves these data centers goes to a landfill.

Data center engineer refurbishing a server component

It’s not just data centers; there are many ways we can rethink how we treat waste, from electronics to cars to food. We are sharing how we made this happen in our data centers to help system operators at other companies find their own way to adopt similar practices.

In addition to material efficiency, we are dedicated to energy efficiency and the use of clean power to operate our data centers. Compared to five years ago, we now get around 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy. Today, we are the largest, non-utility, corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world. This means businesses that use our cloud-based products are greener too; a typical organization can see carbon and energy savings in their IT infrastructure between 65 to 85%.

Our offices have also been looking at innovative ways to design out waste. For example, in the Bay Area we have already achieved an 86 percent landfill diversion rate. In addition to our large-scale composting program, we use a software system called LeanPath in our kitchens to track pre-consumer food waste (expired items, over-produced, spoiled, etc.). At our Bay Area campuses alone, this system has prevented more than 392,492 pounds of food going into the waste stream over the past year. Additionally, our imperfect produce initiative has utilized 330,000 pounds of produce in the Bay area that would have gone to waste, in turn wasting the land, water, energy, and other resources necessary to develop that produce.
GettyImages-534612666.jpg
Imperfect produce served in Google cafes reduces waste and tastes delicious in soups and stews

Google is also utilizing as much as possible from every ingredient. One example is piloting the use of an innovative food product known as Coffee Flour. A growing number of our kitchens now serve baked goods and other foods made with a flour derived from traditionally discarded parts of a coffee plant—the coffee cherry. We are going beyond what is typical and bringing those items into our nutritious food offerings.

Ultimately, this massive shift requires global businesses to lead the way to reduce our dependence on primary materials and fossil fuels. But the good news is, a shift like this isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for bottom lines. In the 2015 study “Growth Within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe,” the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey and SUN estimated that shifting to a circular economy could be worth €1.8 trillion to Europe by 2030. Recent research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests that €1.2 trillion of that overall potential comes from the information and communications technology sector. This kind of value can be unlocked globally and gains are anticipated to be even larger in the US.

Becoming circular is something we hope all companies will commit to, together. It is certainly a challenge to change in the way we make things and use them, but it's not impossible. And, in the end, it pays—in our own bottom lines, in our broader economy, and in the environment we all share together.