A better web. Better for the environment.
More Nordic wind power for our European data centers
Posted by Marc Oman, EU Energy Lead, Google Global Infrastructure
At the end of last year, we
that we were purchasing a whopping 842 megawatts (MW) of additional renewable energy to power our operations and take us one step closer to running 100 percent of our operations on clean energy. Today, we walked further down that path by agreeing to purchase an additional 236 MW of energy from two new wind farms in Norway and Sweden.
These new Nordic power purchase agreements complement our three other Swedish wind deals and enable us to power even more of our European operations with renewable energy. In total, we now have seven purchase agreements in Europe, totalling more than 500 MW and 18 such deals globally, which means we’ve now purchased nearly 2.5 gigawatts (GW) worldwide – the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road.
As with our other power purchase agreements, we’re buying the entire production of these new wind farms, situated in two great areas for onshore wind in Europe. In Norway, power will be generated by a 50-turbine project near Stavanger, which is set to be completed in late 2017. In Sweden, we’re buying power from a 22-turbine project, near Mariestad and Töreboda, which will be completed by early 2018. 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
One of our key goals is to enable the addition of new renewable energy generation capacity to the grid, rather than drawing power from existing facilities. And 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.
We’ve known for a long time that
reducing energy usage
and using renewables makes good business sense - we signed our first major power purchase agreement for
114 MW of Iowa wind
in 2010. Others are discovering the benefits of renewables too - in the US alone, companies bought almost
3.5 GW of renewable energy last year
. We’re pleased to have played a part in stimulating the market for corporate renewable energy purchasing and doing our share in the effort to mitigate climate change.
Photo of wind turbine in Sweden by BMJ via Shutterstock
Data Centers Get Fit on Efficiency
Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure
Google’s efforts to build the world’s most efficient data centers are beginning to give back -- in energy. A
just released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) shows that in the last five years, data center efficiency has kept energy usage almost flat despite a huge growth in demand for computing power.
In fact, compared to five years ago, we can now deliver over 3.5 times as much computing power for the same amount of electrical power. That means that even though we’re sending more email, watching more YouTube videos, and saving more digital photos, we’re using the same amount of energy.
Let’s dig into some numbers from the
In 2014, U.S. data centers used 70 billion kWh of energy -- equal to powering more than six million homes for a year.
This is a big shift in energy consumption:
From 2000 to 2005, usage grew 90 percent;
From 2005 to 2010, usage grew 24 percent;
From 2010 to 2014, usage grew 4 percent.
Energy use is expected to increase at the same rate of four percent from 2014 to 2020.
Inside a Google data center
Stabilizing data center energy usage is great, but at Google, we believe we will
go further than simply stopping the growth
. As more IT users transition to public clouds and mobile use increases, total energy usage will likely go down even more. On the server side, ultra-efficient cloud capacity replaces older, less efficient corporate data centers, and on the client side, battery life pressures ensure that mobile devices use much less energy than desktops.
The cloud supports many products at a time, so it can more efficiently distribute resources among many users. That means we can do more with less energy—and businesses can too. In 2013, the Berkeley Lab
we helped support, indicating that moving all office workers in the United States to the cloud could reduce the energy used by information technology by up to 87 percent. That’s equal to powering the city of Los Angeles for one year.
2013 U.S. Case Study: Energy Efficiency Potential of Cloud-based Software (Berkeley Lab)
Efficiency in data center operations like Google’s comes from shifting to super efficient computing, along with improvements in storage, network and infrastructure, employing more advanced cooling strategies, better power management software, and consolidating servers.
We are focused on creating platforms where everyone can benefit. Google builds hyperscale data centers that are designed to maximize infrastructure efficiency. We also began publishing our
in 2008 and have been promoting techniques for more efficient energy use to leaders in the IT industry, starting with the first
data center efficiency summit
in 2009 and our continued advances with
These results show the rapid impact efficiency can have on the industry and the persistent opportunity we have to reduce energy use while creating a more powerful web.
Innovating for a Cleaner Energy Future
Energy ministers from around the globe visited the Bay Area this week for their first meeting following the signing of historic
climate change agreements
in France last year. The focus of the annual gathering for the seventh
Clean Energy Ministerial
, known as CEM7, was to discuss how to achieve the goals set in the Paris climate change deal as well as see some of the innovations coming out of Silicon Valley to tackle the issue head on.
A number of ministers embarked on a fact finding mission that included Google where they came to learn at first hand about our approach and commitment to clean energy and the climate.
Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure
told the group that renewable energy is critical for businesses like ours -- from powering our data centers to our products and services.
“ Having pioneered some of the first corporate renewable power purchasing back in 2010-2011, we’re excited to see that this is becoming business-as-usual for companies everywhere. And at Google we continue to be committed to 100% renewable energy because this makes good business sense and is the right thing to do for the planet and for our users.”
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz who led the visit to Google was joined by ministers and officials from countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Chile, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.
The group got the opportunity to see at first hand a number of projects aimed at everything from helping people make smart choices about
to how we power our
with renewable energy, and from advancing new approaches to
to helping consumers
save energy in the home
and the benefits of
self driving cars
Self-driving cars could reduce the energy intensity per vehicle through a combination of more efficient vehicle designs, driving behaviors, routing, power usage, and capabilities for vehicles to drive closer to each other, according to
U.S. Department of Energy, 2014
In an effort to build on this week’s momentum the CEM launched a campaign that will promote solutions that enable more companies to purchase renewable power. As part of this effort, Google has agreed later this year to host national governments, renewable energy buyers and suppliers, NGOs, and other interested groups as they look for ways to further unlock corporate renewable energy demand in CEM countries.
Mars Hanna, Global Energy Policy and Strategy
Laying the Foundation for Renewable Energy Certification Programs in Asia
At Google, we’ve made a
long term commitment
to power 100% of our operations with renewable energy. To that end, we’ve
purchased more than 2 gigawatts of renewable energy
to date, making us the world’s largest non-utility purchaser of renewables.
– including our facilities in
that help us provide people in Asia with faster, more reliable access to our tools and services – make up the majority of our electricity consumption. We are
working to power all of our data centers around the world with renewable energy
, but one of the challenges we face in Asia is that effective renewable energy certification programs simply aren’t available.
To help address this, we’re announcing today that we’re providing seed funding to the
Center for Resource Solutions
(CRS) to begin laying the groundwork to establish such programs across Asia, starting in Taiwan. They have over 20 years of experience developing and operating renewable energy certification programs.
These kinds of programs are key in helping companies like Google actually know that the power we are buying comes from a renewable source. They work by “tagging” each MWh of energy generated from a source like wind or solar as renewable, which creates a renewable energy certificate (“REC”). This is especially important to us in Taiwan, where we are actively looking to purchase renewable energy for our data center.
from CRS explains how this works for some customers. In Google’s case, we buy both the physical power and the RECs associated with that power, providing us with both the financial benefits of renewable energy and the assurance that the electricity we are buying is in fact renewable.
It may not sound like much, but these programs are critical to creating well-functioning voluntary renewable energy markets. For the
dozens of Fortune 100 and Global 100 companies that have renewable energy commitments
, RECs are a critical instrument to ensuring that renewable energy purchasing claims are accurate and verifiable. They have played a key role in enabling companies in the United States to grow their renewable energy purchasing from about 100 MW in 2012 to over
3,000 MW last year
With this support from Google, CRS will begin examining how best to structure these programs across Asia to create robust voluntary renewable energy markets. They will also begin building a coalition of international stakeholders from the public, private, and NGO sectors to drive these efforts forward.
Organizations interested in supporting these efforts may get
more information here.
Posted by Marsden Hanna, Global Energy Policy and Strategy
Google unites with other tech companies to support US Clean Power Plan.
Today Google, along with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, filed a legal brief with the DC Circuit Court supporting the
Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
The CPP aims to accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of electricity and puts an emphasis on renewable energy development and energy efficiency. The plan has been put on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have come together in
to offer our unique view as large consumers of energy. Collectively we used 10 million MWh of electricity last year, including at 50 data centers in 12 states. That means reliable and affordable electricity is integral to the continued growth and operation of all of our businesses and the services we offer to our users everywhere. We are all committed to sourcing our power in a sustainable way, and renewable energy makes good business sense for us all.
At Google, we have been
carbon neutral since 2007
. We have signed contracts to
purchase over 2GW of renewable energy
-- equivalent to taking nearly one million cars off the road -- making us the largest non-utility renewable energy purchaser in the world. Just last year we signed the
largest and most diverse purchase of renewable energy
made by a non-utility company to power our data centers. The deal covers a series of new wind and solar projects around the world and takes us one step closer to our goal of powering 100% of our operations with clean energy. Above and beyond our own power purchases, we have also invested
more than $2.5 billion in 22 other renewable projects
around the world.
These efforts underline the seriousness of our
commitment to renewables
and we believe the CPP is an important step in the transition to a cleaner energy future. The message from our companies today is clear -- we can meet the world’s future energy challenges in a way that drives innovation and growth while tackling climate change.
Posted by Michael Terrell, Principal, Energy and Global Infrastructure.
And the winner of the $1 Million Little Box Challenge is…CE+T Power’s Red Electrical Devils
In July 2014, Google and the
launched the $1 Million
Little Box Challenge
, an open competition to design and build a small kW-scale inverter with a power density greater than 50 Watts per cubic inch while meeting a number of other specifications related to efficiency, electrical noise and thermal performance. Over 2,000 teams from across the world registered for the competition and more than 80 proposals qualified for review by
IEEE Power Electronics Society
and Google. In October 2015,
18 finalists were selected
to bring their inverters to the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(NREL) for testing.
Today, Google and the IEEE are proud to announce that the grand prize winner of the $1 Million Little Box Challenge is
’s Red Electrical Devils. The Red Electrical Devils (named after
Belgium’s national soccer team
) were declared the winner by a consensus of judges from Google, IEEE Power Electronics Society and NREL. Honorable mentions go to teams from
Virginia Tech’s Future Energy Electronics Center
[CE+T Power’s Red Electrical Devils receive $1 Million Little Box Challenge Prize]
Schneider, Virginia Tech and The Red Electrical Devils all built 2kW inverters that passed
100 hours of testing at NREL
, adhered to the technical specifications of the competition, and were recognized today in a ceremony at the
ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit
in Washington, DC. Among the 3 finalists, the Red Electric Devils’ inverter had the highest power density and smallest volume.
Impressively, the winning team exceeded the power density goal for the competition by a factor of 3,
which is 10 times more compact than commercially available inverters!
When we initially brainstormed technical targets for the Little Box Challenge, some of us at Google didn’t think such audacious goals could be achieved. Three teams from around the world proved decisively that it could be done.
Our takeaway: Establish a worthy goal and smart people will exceed it!
Congratulations again to CE+T Power’s Red Electrical Devils, Schneider Electric and Virginia Tech’s Future Energy Electronics and sincere thanks to our collaborators at IEEE and NREL. The finalist’s technical approach documents will be posted on the
Little Box Challenge website
until December 31, 2017. We hope this helps advance the state of the art and innovation in kW-scale inverters.
Posted by Ross Koningstein, Engineering Director Emeritus, Google Research
Understanding Our Goal: What it Means to be Powered by 100% Renewable Energy
Big dreams lead to big steps and that couldn’t be more true at Google. We’ve made a commitment to power our operations with 100% renewable energy and to date we’ve made great strides towards that goal. Last month we announced
842 MW of new renewable energy purchases in the US, Sweden, and Chile
which boosts our overall purchasing to over 2 GW of renewable energy capacity. This has the same carbon impact as taking nearly 1 million cars off the road and helps us get closer to our 100% goal.
But what does it really mean to be 100% “powered by renewables”? Fundamentally we mean this:
Google purchases, on an annual basis, the same volume (MWh) of renewable energy as the volume of MWh of energy that we consume for our operations.
To unpack what this means let’s start with some basics of the electricity system itself.
We know that electricity generated in one spot cannot be physically directed to a specific user over the electricity grid any more than a cup of water dumped into a river could be directed to a particular runoff stream. Once you put electricity on the grid, it becomes part of the pool of energy within that grid system and flows where physics dictates. There is no way to track if “the energy from wind farm X is going to supply data center Y.”
Given that you can’t tell electrons where to go, how do you “use” renewable energy? One solution is to not use the grid at all, for example by installing renewable generation adjacent to a power-consuming facility “behind the meter”. But this doesn’t usually make economic or practical sense for large facilities like data centers. Instead, large renewable energy projects should be developed where they are most productive and cost-effective - which is usually miles away from where our data centers are best located.
Further, wind and solar resources provide power only when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining but Google’s data centers operate 24x7. If we wanted to power our data centers from adjacently-sited wind or solar and operate disconnected from the rest of the grid, Google’s products would be offline whenever renewable resources aren’t producing energy. Grid-scale energy storage resources (for example very, very large batteries) could solve this problem, but storage technology at the scale we would need is far from cost-effective today.
Figure 1: Indicative hourly profiles for energy consumption from a data center and energy production from wind and solar resources. Note that these are profiles are purely indicative and do not represent specific data center or renewable generation facilities.
As we move towards a 24/7 zero-carbon electricity world we will need to remain connected to the electric grid to allow people to access their Gmail when they want, upload YouTube videos at all hours of the day, and collaborate on docs and spreadsheets with colleagues on the other side of the world.
Indeed, there are tangible benefits to using the grid, such as helping to manage the variability of renewables. For example, our Iowa utility, MidAmerican Energy, has a portfolio of energy generation that is comprised of 40% wind and takes advantage of a large regional network to manage any variability in its system or in an individual wind resource. Similarly, in Europe, the energy provider for our Finland data center purchases renewable energy in Sweden and uses the Nordpool regional electricity grid to manage variability and deliver us consistent 24x7 power.
These are the criteria we strive to meet whenever we purchase renewable energy:
We want our efforts to result in new renewable energy projects, not reshuffling the output from existing projects. For example,
Google committing to buy the entire output of a 72 MW wind farm in Northern Sweden
provided enough revenue security to wind developer O2 to be able to secure financing from German insurance firm Allianz to construct the project. This arrangement brought additional renewable energy onto the grid as a direct result of Google’s long-term commitment.
Bundled physical energy and its “renewable certification”.
We purchase both the physical renewable power and the corresponding certification of its renewable source -
in the United States and
in Europe - which represents the “green-ness” of the power (a detailed explanation of this is
). Many companies simply buy RECs or GOOs from existing projects on the open market, unbundled from the physical power. We set a high bar at Google and always seek to purchase these together.
Where possible we look for renewable projects close to where our data centers are based to maximize physical proximity of renewable supply and consumption. For example we purchase all wind energy generated by
NextEra Energy Resources’ 100.8 MW Minco II facility in Oklahoma
, which is within the same grid area as our
data center in Pryor, Oklahoma.
As we grow we may find ourselves temporarily oversupplied in some regions and undersupplied in others (where access to renewables is currently more limited). We will also be drawing power from the grid to meet our 24/7 power supply needs, which means being dependent on the local grid mix even if portions of it are non-renewable -- although as explained above, we will have separately purchased enough MWh of renewable generation to “cover” this non-renewable portion.
Over the long term, we know that to be serious about solving climate change and reaching 100% renewable, we will need to do more. To that end we are supporting policy and market reforms including
effective design and rollout of the Clean Power Plan
creation of pan-European electricity grids
, working on new technologies like
, and conducting
in-depth research on data center design to maximize energy efficiency.
And we’re looking for opportunities to repurpose traditional electricity infrastructure as we did with our
renewable-powered data center on the site of a former coal plant in Alabama
Here’s to dreaming big!
Posted by Gary Demasi, Director, Data Center Energy & Location Strategy
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