Technology can help us do more with less. For example, making use of natural climates has helped us make our data centers 50% more efficient than the industry average, and green building technology has helped us limit energy consumption in our offices around the world. Now, we’re doing more with less to power Google’s North Bayshore campus in Mountain View.

We’ve recently signed a long-term agreement to purchase enough local wind energy to offset the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters on an annual basis. While we’ve been committed to being a carbon-neutral company since 2007, and we purchase clean energy for our data centers, this agreement is the first of its kind when it comes to our offices.

The agreement with NextEra Energy Resources will help to repower an iconic Bay Area wind farm at California’s Altamont Pass with new turbines that will pour 43 MW of electricity onto the grid starting in 2016. This new technology is twice as efficient, and also safer—especially for wildlife.
The new turbines will generate energy that feeds into the grid that powers our North Bayshore buildings in Mountain View. While these electrons can’t be traced once they enter the grid, we can measure how many of them leave the turbines, as well as how many we use on campus on an annual basis (tracked through a system of renewable energy credits, or RECs). So even though the electrons follow an untraceable path through the California electricity grid, we can be sure that we're offsetting the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters with the renewable energy from the new turbines.

Since our first wind investment in 2010, we’ve developed close relationships with renewable energy providers, helping us secure renewable energy agreements like this one for our campus and data centers—more than 1.1 gigawatt’s worth to date—and it’s also made it possible for us to make equity investments in 17 utility-scale renewable energy projects. And over the years we’ve been thrilled to see other California leaders, from tech companies to universities, also working to bring more renewable energy online.

Finally, if we can geek out for a minute: We think this project is especially cool because back in the 1980’s, the golden hills of Altamont Pass were an early test bed for the first large-scale wind power technology in the U.S. We’ve been blown away (pun intended :)) by how far turbine technology has come since then. Once the installation is complete, and the 370 legacy turbines are replaced, it will take just 24 new ones to generate as much power as our campus uses in a year. Talk about doing more with less.

Many of the world’s most innovative products have started in universities and academic institutions around the world. In fact, in 1996 Google founders Larry and Sergey began collaborating on an early search engine, which operated on Stanford servers for more than a year—eventually taking up too much bandwidth. So it only made sense to encourage academic researchers to try their skills at the Little Box Challenge to see if they could invent a smaller power inverter and help change the future of electricity.

We received over 100 applications from academic institutions for our Little Box Challenge grants and just announced the 10 recipients. Head on over to the Research at Google blog for the list, but then get back to work on shrinking those inverters!

Posted by Eric Raymond, Google Green Team

(Cross-posted from the Google Europe Blog)

The Netherlands is famous for its windmills, which over the years have been used to saw wood, mill corn, pump water and much more. Now, a new generation of Dutch windmill - wind turbines - will power a very 21st century facility: our new EUR 600m data center, currently under construction in the north of the Netherlands.

Thanks to a new long-term agreement signed this week with Dutch power company Eneco, our Eemshaven data center will be 100% powered by renewable energy from its first day of operation, scheduled for the first half of 2016. We’ve agreed to buy the entire output of a new Eneco windfarm -- currently under construction at Delfzijl, near Eemshaven -- for the next ten years.

By entering into long-term agreements like this one with wind farm developers, we’ve been able to increase the amount of renewable energy we consume while helping enable the construction of new renewable energy facilities.

This is the third such power purchase agreement (PPA) we’ve signed in Europe in the last 18 months - the other two were with wind farm developers in Sweden and will power our Hamina, Finland data center with renewable energy.

Eneco’s new wind farm is an onshore-offshore development, which will use 19 turbines to generate 62 MW of renewable energy. Eneco expects the construction of the wind farm to provide employment for 80 people over the next 18 months.

This marks our eighth long-term agreement to purchase renewable energy around the globe. We sign these contracts for a few reasons: they make great financial sense for us by guaranteeing a long term source of clean energy for our data center and they also increase the amount of renewable energy available in the grid, which is great for the environment.

Posted by Francois Sterin, Director, Global Infrastructure Team

In May 2013, we announced our first renewable energy investment in Africa. The Jasper Power Project is a 96-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, near Postmasburg. There is a lot of potential for solar in a country where the sun shines year round. From virtually no renewable energy in 2011, South Africa has awarded close to 4 gigawatts (GW) in wind and solar contracts to become one of the fastest growing renewable energy markets in the world.

Today, we’re happy to contribute to that momentum. The Jasper Project has completed construction and is capturing sunlight nearly two months ahead of schedule. In fact, with 325,000 PV modules, it is the largest solar energy plant in Africa. The project, developed and funded by SolarReserve, Intikon Energy and the Kensani Group, is also backed by Rand Merchant Bank, the Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa and the PEACE Humansrus Trust.
Jasper Power Project PV panels
During construction, the Jasper Project created over 800 on-site construction jobs. As part of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), the project will also set aside a percentage of total revenues—approximately $26 million over the life of the project, for rural development and education programs.

The Jasper Project will deliver 180,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually for South Africa residents – enough to power up to 80,000 households. It’s promising to see South Africa continue to take advantage of its abundant wind and solar resources to bring more clean energy to the country’s power grid. The government has set an ambitious goal of generating 18 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2030 and the Jasper Project is an important step into addressing the power shortages afflicting the country.

Posted by Coy Ross, Google energy asset manager

At Google, we've worked hard to minimize the impact of our services and we stand strongly behind our goal to create a better web that's better for the environment. Recently Eric Schmidt responded to some misguided criticisms from the Wall Street Journal with this letter.

Google has a long-standing and very real commitment to sustainability. 
Your editorial "Google Kills Birds" (Sept. 26) uses comments I made during a National Public Radio interview to accuse Google of hypocrisy on climate change. My words could have been more artful, as Google recently had a thoughtful and constructive meeting about renewable energy and climate change with the American Legislative Exchange Council. However, the Journal wrongly questions Google's long-standing and very real commitment to sustainability.
Our data centers, which enable products and services for billions of users around the world, use renewable energy whenever possible. And, since 2007 (like the company that owns this newspaper) we have been carbon neutral. We invest in renewable energy projects and purchase wind power for our operations, across states like Oklahoma and North Dakota, neither of which have renewable mandates. We have committed $1.5 billion around the world to help bring more renewable energy sources onto the grid, investments that have the capacity to generate 2.5 GW—far more energy than we consume as a company. 
Much of corporate America is buying renewable energy in some form or another, not just to be sustainable, but because it makes business sense, helping companies diversify their power supply, hedge against fuel risks, and support innovation in an increasingly cost-competitive way. 
The Wall Street Journal refers to our "trendy appeals to green virtue." Environmental consciousness is not trendy. It's an absolute imperative. And we're committed to doing our part to build the better world that this moment demands—and that future generations deserve.
Eric Schmidt
Executive Chairman
Google Inc.
Mountain View, Calif.

We'll continue our efforts to drive ourselves and our industry to be more sustainable and you can continue to follow our progress on this blog and at our Google green site.

Posted by Michael Terrell, Energy & Sustainability team member

Can you stand the heat?

A key hurdle of the Little Box Challenge is that the finalists’ inverters will need to pass a rigorous performance test. Today we're announcing that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado will serve as the testing facility for the high power density inverters submitted to the Little Box Challenge.

The inverters will be tested over the course of 100 hours at NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility using state of the art equipment by world-class technical staff. The results will help us ensure that the best entry wins by evaluating how the devices meet the specifications required of the high power density design. A large component of the the testing process will involve feeding DC power (the power that comes out of solar panels) to the inverters and seeing how well they provide AC electricity under various load conditions, while maintaining high conversion efficiency and not overheating. The testing staff will also look for and measure electromagnetic interference and super technical details like ripple current and total harmonic distortion.

If those words are music to your power electronics tuned ears, applicants must register by September 30, 2014. The deadline to submit a technical approach and testing application is July 22, 2015. Then up to 18 finalists will be invited to bring their inverters to NREL for testing. At that time, an event hosted by NREL, Google and the IEEE Power Electronic Society will provide finalists a chance to discuss their designs, approaches and receive a tour of the testing facility.

We look forward to seeing the amazing devices people will build.

Posted by Eric Raymond, green team member

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