Tag Archives: Sustainability

Made by Google, manufactured with clean energy

It's not just about what products we build, but how we build them. When designing Google hardware, like the Nest Mini or Wifi, we’re always thinking about how to create products that leave people, the planet and our communities better than we found them. 

Earlier this year we shared our initial sustainability commitments for Google hardware which demonstrate how we’re thinking about sustainability every step of the way--from design to manufacturing to shipping to reuse.

We’ve made even more progress toward these commitments. One hundred percent of the Nest products launching in 2019 are built with recycled plastics. Shipping those products, along with all other Made by Google products, from us to you, is now 100 percent carbon neutral. 

But we want to work toward a world where everyone has access to renewable energy, including our suppliers and their communities. 


As a part of this, we’ve committed to invest approximately $150 million into renewable energy projects in key manufacturing regions. Our investment commitment, alongside partners, aims to catalyze roughly $1.5 billion of capital into renewable energy. With these investments, we expect to help generate renewable energy that is equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture our Google consumer hardware products. So when you buy these products, you know you’re contributing to bringing new renewable energy to manufacturing communities.

A commitment to advancing access to clean energy has long been a cornerstone of Google’s overall sustainability efforts. In September, we made the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history. This purchase includes 1,600-megawatt (MW) of wind and solar and 18 new energy deals. Together, these deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of renewable agreements by more than 40 percent, reaching 5,500 MW—which is equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops. 

The goal is to continue to integrate sustainability into our products, operations and communities, and push ourselves to do more, faster. We encourage others to join us in this pursuit.


Fighting climate change with new data

This week, leaders from cities and environmental organizations—as well as representatives from Google—are gathering at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen to raise awareness around new data sources and methodologies that play a critical role in reaching a zero-carbon future.

More than 10,000 cities around the world have committed to taking action on climate change over the next decade. But without the right data, it can be hard to know where to start. Our Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) is a free online tool that makes it easier for cities to measure, plan and reduce overall carbon emissions and pollution across their cities. Designed in collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), EIE analyzes Google’s comprehensive global mapping data to estimate building and transportation carbon emissions and renewable energy potential. This data can then help build policies, guide solutions and measure progress.

Today EIE will be available for the first time in Europe, starting with Dublin, Birmingham, and the greater metropolitan area of Manchester, with Wolverhampton and Coventry to follow soon. We’re also making available new hyperlocal, street-level air quality data, starting in Copenhagen. This is part of a new section called EIE Labs, which will pilot climate-focused datasets as a critical indicator for prioritizing and tracking climate action.

In Dublin, city leaders have already been testing the tool, and are using EIE insights to inform smart transit programs with the goal of reducing emissions and increasing the use of cleaner modes of travel. Owen Keegan, Chief Executive, Dublin City Council, says, “Now we can bring Environmental Insights Explorer data analytics to conversations about transportation greenhouse gas emissions and show people the impact of supporting such programs to help start reducing emissions for our entire city which can help inform the debate." 

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Dublin EIE data showing autos as the largest contributing source of CHG transportation emissions.

We’re creating Copenhagen’s new air quality map in partnership with the City of Copenhagen and scientists at Utrecht University, bringing in data from Project Air View, which equips Google Street View vehicles with scientific instruments to measure air quality at street level. The preliminary map shows the block-by-block concentration of black carbon and ultrafine particle pollution, which Copenhagen is already using to work with architects and designers to rethink the city for the future.

“Measuring ultrafine particles and black carbon at street level are important steps for the City of Copenhagen to understand how we can prioritise actions to secure a clean and healthy city for our citizens. This new data displays the dynamic levels of ultrafine particles and black carbon with a strong overall relation to traffic patterns, but also hotspots like the narrow streets in our old city centre,” says Rasmus Reeh, senior developer at the Copenhagen Solutions Lab, City of Copenhagen.

AirView-CPH_UFP.png

Copenhagen’s hyperlocal air quality maps are being used to redesign parts of the city to be healthier and more sustainable.

We’re staying focused on hyperlocal air quality, enabling 50 more Street View cars to capture air quality measurements on roads around the globe. We hope these insights will inspire cities to transform their own transport vehicle fleets into environmental sensing platforms—the Environmental Defense Fund’s Clean Air Guide provides some tips on getting started—and contribute to the Air Quality Data Commons platform, which supports new insights, deeper research and more effective climate action.

We are encouraged by the positive response of cities and city partners, including GCOM, whose Executive Director, Amanda Eichel, says “we believe EIE can serve as a critical first step for city sustainability teams to better assess their current situation and more efficiently track and monitor their progress in meeting their climate protection goals.”

We’re already working hard to bringing EIE to many more cities around the world, and we’re excited about helping more mayors create a healthier, cleaner future for their citizens and for the planet. If you’d like to nominate your city as the next candidate for EIE, let us know.

Neha Palmer keeps Google’s data centers green

When Neha Palmer was a kid, she idolized Marie Curie. Reading a book about the pioneering scientist inspired her to pursue the field herself. “I think of it as the geek’s princess story,” she says. And now, both in and out of her role at Google, she’s working to inspire others who want to find a way to translate their passion for science and the environment into a career. 

Neha leads the team responsible for purchasing clean energy to fuel Google’s data centers. She's helping to reach our goal of remaining carbon neutral, which we have been since 2007, and matching all of Google’s energy consumption with 100 percent renewable energy, which we have achieved for two years in a row. Thanks to the work of Neha’s team, Google recently announced our largest ever purchase of renewable energy and was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency with its Green Power Leadership Partner of the Year award.

For this installment of The She Word, Neha explains why renewable energy is so important, how Google has inspired companies to take action themselves and the one trick that keeps her productive, even on the busiest days. 

How do you describe your job at a dinner party?

When you use Search, YouTube and Gmail, all of that sits on a computer somewhere, and that somewhere is our network of data centers around the world. My job is to buy as much clean energy in the locations we have data centers as we can. Data centers are the largest portion of our carbon footprint as a company, driven by the amount of electricity they consume.

How does Google define clean energy? 

We define 100 percent renewable as: For every year, across the globe, we match every single kilowatt hour of electricity we use with a kilowatt hour of renewable energy. So far, that has meant wind and solar. But now we’re thinking: How do we get beyond that? If you have a solar farm, for example, it’s going to produce energy during the day, but when it’s dark, we still have to use the power that’s on the grid, which often includes carbon-emitting resources. Our next big goal is to buy 100 percent clean, carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. That would mean resources that don’t emit carbon. 

I feel lucky that I have a job where I feel like I can make a difference.

Why is it so important to focus on clean energy? 

The production of electricity results in around 30 percent of all the emissions in the world. From my perspective, it’s the most important thing that we can do as a company to make sure we’re operating in an environmentally sustainable way. What we’ve seen is that a lot of companies from all sectors have followed. We see the automotive industry, consumer products, even candy bar companies moving toward clean energy. Corporations have realized that this is something that is not only beneficial for their environment, but also for their business. 

Climate is top of mind for many people right now, but a lot of people are confused about what they can do as individuals. I feel lucky that I have a job where I feel like I can make a difference. Seeing the impact of the work is really satisfying. 

What do you do in a typical day? 

I try to get big projects out of the way in the morning. If there’s something I need to sit down and think about critically, I try to block out at least an hour to focus on that. If I do have a bunch of things that are top of mind, but I know I’ll only have that one hour, I usually start the day by writing exactly one thing, and only one thing, on a sticky note. I stick it on my computer, and I won’t leave for the day until it is done. I spend a lot of time in meetings, since I’m on a very large team. And I try to sit down and have an actual lunch and be technology-free, to let my mind clear and re-energize. In the afternoons it’s a scramble—I’ve got two small children, so I get home and spend time with them before they go to bed and end the day. 

What’s one habit that makes you successful?

There’s so much discussion right now about work-life balance. One thing I’ve learned is that it's going to be seasonal. There are plenty of times where you feel stressed and you’re not going to have that balance, but there are  plenty of times where you feel like you are in control. Knowing that you can get back to that place gives me enough mental stability to get through the hectic times. 

You spent most of your career in the utilities industry, which is historically male-dominated. How have you navigated that?

I’ve always sought out strong female leaders, whether it’s within my company or outside the company, I’ve also tried to think about how I can help pull people up. It might be talking to a group of high schoolers about STEM and engineering careers, or it might be talking to an MBA class about how you convert your passion for the environment into a job. There are plenty of people who are interested in the energy industry, it’s just making sure that we find them, engage them and then hire them. 

Our commitment to ensure a sustainable future for all

Today is the start of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. This year the UN is placing a large focus on climate change, so we’re here to share details about Google’s longstanding and ongoing investments in sustainability. Along with our own actions, we’re committed to partnering with governments and other companies to ensure a sustainable future for all people. 

We are focused on sustainability across all of our products and services. We’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, and our work to support renewable energy remains a huge focus for us. (Last week, we announced the largest ever purchase of renewable energy by any corporation.) As our business continues to grow, we have expanded the breadth of our efforts to drive positive environmental impact, and make smarter and more efficient use of the Earth’s resources:

Hamina

Our data center operating in Hamina, Finland. This facility is one of the most advanced and efficient data centers in the Google fleet.  

Designing efficient data centers 

Google’s data centers power products like Search, Gmail and YouTube for billions of people around the world. For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make Google data centers some of the most efficient in the world. On average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. Compared with five years ago, we now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power, and we're applying machine learning to drive energy efficiency even further.
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Solar project that currently serves Google operations in Chile.

Advancing carbon-free energy

Combating climate change requires a clean energy economy, which is why we’ve invested to become more energy efficient and to match every unit of energy we consume at our facilities around the world with an equivalent unit of energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. In 2018, for the second year in a row, we matched 100 percent of our electricity consumption with renewables, and last week’s announcement increased our global portfolio of wind and solar agreements by more than 40 percent, to 5,500 megawatts—equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops. We’ve long worked in partnershipwith energy companies, policy makers and other companies to drive access to renewable energy. We’re continuing to pursue a much greater, longer-term challenge: sourcing carbon-free energy for our operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week


Woklace

We aim to restore the local ecology while improving access to the outdoors for Google employees and the surrounding community.


Creating sustainable workplaces 

We’re committed to designing and operating sustainable workplaces for our employees. We start by applying industry-leading green building standards wherever possible, and this includes 13 million square feet of Google office facilities which have achieved LEED certification. We take a science- and community-driven approach to managing our campuses, with the aim of having a positive impact in the places where we operate, and we’re designing and building our offices with local environments, ecology and animal habitats in mind. We’ve also avoided over 6.6 million pounds of food waste since 2014 by bringing new technology solutions into our kitchens.

Empowering ppl

Google technology works to help create a more sustainable and resource-efficient world

Empowering people with technology

Our technology can help enable others who are working toward the same cause. By mapping the world’s forests, oceans and watersheds, we’re making it easier for scientists, environmental organizations and communities to understand how our planet is changing over time. Google Earth is used globally by millions to explore and understand our ever-changing planet and Google Earth Engine is focused on planetary-scale geospatial analysis, giving researchers access to Google’s massive cloud and computational capabilities. We continue to work to enable cities to drive meaningful climate action plans with our Environmental Insights Explorer and we’re applying AI to some of the world’s biggest challenges, like AI-enabled flood forecasting. We recently announced we’re expanding flood forecasting efforts in India, where 20 percent of flood fatalities occur.
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Our ambition is that every product we build will leave people, the planet, and our communities better than we found them. 

Building better devices and services

Google Shopping and Google Hardware are also helping people make decisions that lessen our impact on the planet. Starting today, when you buy a product on Google Shopping or purchase Made by Google hardware, we’ll offset the carbon emissions generated from that product being shipped to you. This means that for every metric ton of carbon dioxide produced in shipping, we will ensure that the same volume of emissions is removed. 


Stadia, Google’s all-new streaming gaming platform, has joined the Playing for the Planet Alliance and will work closely with the UN to support various gaming-related sustainability initiatives in the coming years. Stadia is powered by Google Cloud, which means when it’s available later this year, it will be 100 percent carbon neutral. We also are undertaking significant work to ensure that the hardware we sell is sustainable

Sharing our progress and looking forward

You can read more in our newly released 2019 Environmental Report. Every day we’re humbled by people who turn to our products to understand how they can have a meaningful impact on our world. Increasingly, people are searching for ways to take action on climate change and other environmental issues, and we want to ensure our products help people achieve their goals. While we have a lot to be proud of, there’s a lot more work to do.


Our biggest renewable energy purchase ever

Sustainability has been one of Google’s core values from our earliest days. Over the years we’ve worked hard to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, build products with people and planet in mind, and drive change at scale through our supply chains.


A cornerstone of our sustainability efforts is our commitment to clean energy. We’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007. In 2017, we became the first company of our size to match our entire annual electricity consumption with renewable energy (and then we did it again in 2018). As a result, we became the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.

Today we’re taking another big step by making the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history. This purchase is made up of a 1,600-megawatt (MW) package of agreements and includes 18 new energy deals. Together, these deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of wind and solar agreements by more than 40 percent, to 5,500 MW—equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops. Once all these projects come online, our carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than places like Washington D.C. or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year. 

cumulative capacity of google's renewable energy portfolio

Our newest energy purchases will increase Google’s existing renewable energy portfolio by more than 40 percent.

Our latest agreements will also spur the construction of more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure, including millions of solar panels and hundreds of wind turbines spread across three continents. In all, our renewable energy fleet now stands at 52 projects, driving more than $7 billion in new construction and thousands of related jobs.   


To ensure maximum impact, all of our latest deals meet the rigorous “additionality” criteria we set out long ago for our energy purchases. This means we’re not buying power from existing wind and solar farms but instead are making long-term purchase commitments that result in the development of new projects. Bringing incremental renewable energy to the grids where we consume energy is a critical component of pursuing 24x7 carbon-free energy for all of our operations.


Current wind and solar projects

Clockwise from top left: Wind and solar projects that currently serve Google in Sweden; North Carolina; the Netherlands; Oklahoma; and Chile.

These 18 new deals span the globe, and include investments in the U.S., Chile and Europe. In the U.S., we’ll purchase energy from 720 MW of solar farms in North Carolina (155 MW), South Carolina (75 MW), and Texas (490 MW)—more than doubling the capacity of our global solar portfolio to date. In South America, we’re adding 125 MW of renewable energy capacity to the grid that supplies our data center in Chile. And tomorrow I will be in Finland to share more detail on our sizeable new projects in Europe.


These renewable energy purchases aren't only notable for their size. Up to now, most of our renewable energy purchases in the U.S. have been wind-driven, but the declining cost of solar (down more than 80 percent in the past decade) has made harnessing the sun increasingly cost-effective. Meanwhile, our Chile deal marks the first time we’ll buy power in a hybrid technology deal that combines solar and wind. Because the wind often blows at different times than the sun shines, pairing them will allow us to match our Chilean data center with carbon-free electricity for a larger portion of each day.

Before and after new agreements - Americas

The agreements announced today will bring additional large-scale solar and wind farms—representing more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure—to electric grids worldwide

Beyond our own operations, we’re working to make clean energy mainstream and break down the barriers for those who want to purchase renewable energy. Today we’re announcing two new grants from Google.org to provide further support for organizations that expand access to clean energy for all businesses—from flower shops to big-box retailers to startups. We’ll provide a $500,000 grant to Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) in the U.S. and a 500,000 euro grant to RE-Source in Europe. These grants will help fund the development of new purchasing models, provide training and resources for consumers, and enable more widespread access to clean power.

As you can see in our newly released 2019 Environmental Report, these are just a few of the ways we’re working to tackle climate change at a global scale. We're also investing in AI and other technologies like Google Earth Engine to scale these efforts beyond our walls. Our goal is to make sure technology can benefit everyone—and the planet we call home. With today’s announcement, we're one step closer to that goal.

Accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition

Europe has long been a leader in renewable energy. Last year, policymakers passed an ambitious set of reforms to take things to the next level, setting a new goal of meeting 32 percent of Europe’s energy needs from renewables by 2030. Google fully supports this ambitious target, and is committed to helping the continent reach its energy and climate goals. One way we can do so is to share successful strategies that we have used to purchase renewable energy for our own operations in Europe. 

The European Commission has published a new case study on Google’s renewable energy purchasing. It describes the motivations, principles and methods behind our purchasing in Europe, where we have signed 14 power purchase agreements (PPAs) to purchase electricity from 900 megawatts of wind and solar projects, enabling €1.2 billion in investment across the continent.

As the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world and the second largest in Europe, we believe corporate PPAs can play a significant role in helping Europe reach its clean energy goals. As the study shows, renewables not only are an important part of solving for climate change, but also make business sense. In an increasing number of geographic areas, renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy available. Competitive and stable renewable energy prices allow us to reduce our costs and hedge against price increases in the future, which helps us plan the growth of our business.

The case study also provides policy recommendations to encourage more corporate renewable energy purchasing. They include revising policies to drive down the cost of renewables, ensuring that corporate renewable energy buyers receive certification (known as “Guarantees of Origin”) for the electricity that they procure and encouraging cross-border PPAs so that competitive renewable electricity produced in one country can be easily purchased in another.  

Google’s work with the European Commission builds on our broader commitment to helping all companies secure a clear and easy path to purchase renewable energy. Last year, we helped launch the RE-Source Platform, a broad coalition of companies and NGOs working to accelerate corporate purchasing of renewables in Europe. 

This year is an important one for renewables in Europe, as member state governments create national plans to accelerate their energy transition over the next decade. We’re grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the European Commission to help expand corporate renewable energy sourcing. We hope this case study can help policymakers recognize the important contribution of corporate PPAs to their climate and energy goals, and encourage more companies to explore how cost-effective renewable energy can meet their business needs.

Our hardware sustainability commitments

Most of us can’t get through the day without a phone, tablet, computer or smart speaker. My team at Google understands this well—we’ve been making consumer hardware (like Pixel phones and Google Home Minis) for just over three years now. But building these devices and getting them into the hands of our customers takes a lot of resources, and disposing of our old electronics can create significant waste. 


My job is to integrate sustainability into our products, operations and communities—making it not just an aspect of how we do business, but the centerpiece of it. It’s an ongoing endeavor that involves designing in sustainability from the start and embedding it into the entire product development process and across our operations, all while creating the products our customers want. This is how we will achieve our ambition to leave people, the planet, and our communities better than we found them. 


To help us get a step closer to reaching our goals, we’re sharing a set of hardware and services sustainability commitments

  • By 2020, 100 percent of all shipments going to or from customers will be carbon neutral 
  • Starting in 2022, 100 percent of Made by Google products will include recycled materials with a drive to maximize recycled content wherever possible.
  • And we will make technology that puts people first and expands access to the benefits of technology. 

These commitments will build on the foundation and progress we’ve already made. In 2018, we began publishing our product environmental reports, which help everyone understand exactly what our products are made of, how they’re built and how they get shipped to you. And from 2017 to 2018, our carbon emissions for product shipments decreased by 40 percent. we’ve also launched our Power Project, which will bring one million energy- and money-saving Nest thermostats to families in need by 2023, and built much of our Nest product portfolio with post-consumer recycled plastic.  


We’re always working to do more, faster. But today we’re laying the foundation for what we believe will be a way of doing business that commits to building better products better. 

A circular Google in a sustainable world

A circular Google and how we plan to get there


People love stuff. During the 20th Century, the use of raw materials rose globally at twice the rate as the population. All of this consumption puts a strain on resources. In fact, just last year, humanity’s consumption of resources--such as metals, timber and even land--required 1.7 planet Earths to sustain. So, is all this demand for ‘stuff’ inherently unsustainable, or is the problem with how we take, make and waste it?

The sheer scale of our resource economy is almost unimaginable: Billions of tons of materials, from plastic straws and  blocks of concrete to bales of wheat and sheets of metal, all of these things are constantly being taken, made, moved around, built with, used up, and disposed of, all across the world. For too long, the damaging environmental consequences of these linear systems remained relatively invisible. Today, however, the impact cannot be ignored. One garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans every minute, landfills are overflowing, and our climate crisis is fueled by energy used to sustain  this take-make-waste model.

The ‘circular economy’ concept challenges this disconnect between consumption and consequences. In a circular economy abundance become possible, livelihoods raised and progress fueled, all by keeping stuff, circular.  

Our vision is simple: we want a circular Google within a sustainable world.

The challenges to making this vision a reality are as daunting as they are exciting. It demands that we redefine how systems work—from what we value and the choices we make, to the assumptions and industrial processes that have been standard practice across our economy for decades. Our new circular Google strategy is part of our wider effort to build sustainability into everything we do.

As we built out this strategy, an intriguing insight emerged. An element of reaching a fully circular economy requires identifying, tracking and managing the overwhelming and globe-spanning swirl of materials. Thankfully, technological developments in the 21st century suggest a way to do so: to view all this stuff as information.

Considering the circular economy as an information challenge is inspiring for us at Google. It suggests that we can leverage our scale, resources and technological expertise to help the world meet resource needs.

It’s been estimated that transitioning to a circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion in new economic output by 2030. That fact illustrates the potential to achieve abundance and make progress, while also significantly improving human and environmental systems.

So we are excited to announce a new goal: Maximize the reuse of finite resources across our operations, products and supply chains and enable others to do the same.But we can’t do it alone. A truly systemic shift to a circular economy goes way beyond Google. We’ll need to create new, and even unlikely, partnerships across industries. The scale of the change required to reach circularity will touch every part of society and span the entire global economy.

If you are a Google team member, partner, supplier or one of the billions of people who use Google every day, we hope you will come on this exciting journey with us.


Whale songs and AI, for everyone to explore

Back in the 1960s, scientists first discovered that humpback whales actually sing songs, which evolve over time. But there’s still so much we don’t understand. Why do humpbacks sing? What is the meaning of the patterns within their songs?

Scientists sift through an ocean of sound to find answers to these questions. But what if anyone could help make discoveries?

For the past year, Google AI has been partnering with NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center to train an artificial intelligence model on their vast collection of underwater recordings. This project is helping scientists better understand whales’ behavioral and migratory patterns, so scientists can better protect whales. The effort fits into Google’s AI for Social Good program, applying the latest in machine learning to the world’s biggest humanitarian and environmental challenges.

NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen and Google software engineer Matt Harvey work together to field test the algorithm aboard a research vessel.

NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen (left) works onboard a research vessel and Google software engineer Matt Harvey (right) field tests the algorithm.

Now, everyone can play a role in this project using a website called Pattern Radio: Whale Songs. It’s a new tool that visualizes audio at a vast scale and uses AI to make it easy to explore. The site hosts more than 8,000 hours of NOAA’s recordings, which means scientists aren’t the only ones who can explore this data and make discoveries. Everyone can.

Zooming in on the spectrogram shows you individual sounds.

Zooming in on the spectrogram shows you individual sounds. 

On the site, you can zoom all the way in to see individual sounds on a spectrogram (in addition to humpback songs, you can see the sounds of ships, fish and all kinds of mysterious and even unknown noises). You can also zoom all the way out to see months of sound at a time. An AI heat map helps you find whale calls, and visualizations help you see repetitions and patterns of the sounds within the songs.

Highlights help visualize patterns and repetitions of individual sounds within the songs.

Highlights help visualize patterns and repetitions of individual sounds within the songs.


The idea is to get everyone listening—and maybe even make a totally new discovery. If you find something you think others should hear, you can share a link that goes directly to that sound. And if you need a bit more context around what you’re hearing, guided tours from whale song experts—like NOAA research oceanographer Ann Allen, bioacoustic scientist Christopher Clark, Cornell music professor Annie Lewandowski and more—point out especially interesting parts of the data.


You can start exploring at g.co/patternradio. And to dive even deeper, learn more about the project at our about page and check out Ann Allen’s article on how this whole project got started on her NOAA Fisheries blog. Jump on in!

100 percent renewable energy, for the second year in a row

In 2017, we first reached our longstanding goal of buying enough renewable energy to match 100 percent of Google’s global annual electricity use. And we’re on a roll: during 2018, our purchases of energy from sources like solar and wind once again matched our entire annual electricity consumption.


We’re the first organization of our size to achieve 100 percent renewable energy two years running, but just as important as reaching our goal is how we did it. Addressing climate change will require adding renewable energy wherever possible and, for us as a company, making decisions that have an impact beyond our walls. We’ve asked ourselves: how can we use our purchasing to do the most good in the broader energy system?


Our first priority is to use as little energy as possible, operating our offices and facilities sustainably, with a strong focus on our data centers. Thanks toadvances in artificial intelligence and chip design, our data centers are seven times more energy efficient today than they were five years ago. Our latest Environmental Report shows that computing using centralized cloud services is up to 85 percent more efficient than using on-premises servers, which is good news for our users and the planet.

100-percent-chart_2019-april.jpg

As our energy consumption has increased, so have our purchases of renewable energy, allowing us to achieve our 100 percent renewable energy goal two years in a row.

Still, keeping the internet humming is a big job, and it means finding ways to add new renewable energy to grids around the world. Our main strategy involves entering into long-term contracts, called Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), to buy electricity from wind or solar farms built near our facilities. PPAs have more impact than other purchasing methods, such as buying unbundled Renewable Energy Credits, because PPAs spur the construction of new renewable energy projects. In 2018, our energy purchasing kept pace with our demand thanks to several PPA-driven projects—including three wind farms in Scandinavia, dozens of massive wind turbines in Oklahoma, andmore than 120,000 solar panels in the Netherlands.

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We recently began buying electricity from this new solar project in the Netherlands, as seen on Google Earth

As much as we like PPAs, they’re complicated to arrange, which is why we’ve also begun to partner with utility companies. In four U.S. states, we’ve helped design programs that enable businesses to buy renewable energy through their power provider. We’re a customer for these programs, but we also see our work as opening pathways for other organizations. By making it simple to choose renewable energy through utilities, we can enable more companies to play a role in fighting climate change.


Two final approaches can help expand renewable energy by making it more economical. In the Netherlands, we joined several companies to buy energy as a consortium. We hope our approach to cross-company energy purchasing will serve as a useful model for smaller companies interested in banding together to realize the cost savings that come with large renewable energy deals. We’ve also started using machine learning to make wind production in the central U.S. more predictable and valuable, improving the business case for deploying more of it.

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We source electricity from wind and solar projects on four continents, with a combined capacity of nearly 3.5 gigawatts

So what comes next?


We want to make it simple for any business—be it a flower shop, retailer, or startup—to buy cheap renewable energy. Though clean energy now makes economic sense across much of the globe, it remains difficult for many companies to access. We’ve joined other major energy purchasers to launch the Renewable Energy Buyer’s Alliance, with the goal of catalyzing 60 gigawatts of new renewable purchases by 2025.

Closer to home, last year we announced our intention to power our operations entirely with carbon-free energy—24x7, 365 days a year. To bridge the gap between intermittent renewable resources and the constant demands of the digital economy, we’ll have to test new business models, deploy new technologies, and advocate for new policies. Yet aiming for 24x7 carbon-free energy reflects reality—ultimately, it’s where the world must go. We’re excited to work with our partners to invent the way forward.