Renewable energy via: Google

Committed to clean energy

Across Google, we’re committed to using renewable energy, like wind and solar, as much as possible. So why don’t we build clean energy sources right on our data centers? The places with the best renewable power potential are generally not the same places where a data center can most efficiently and reliably serve its users. And while our data centers operate 24/7, most renewable energy sources don’t – yet.

So we need to plug in to the grid, and the grid isn’t currently very green. While there are renewable energy producers adding to the grid, and we could support them by buying their renewable energy credits (RECs), we wanted to do more. In other words, could we find ways to make the grid greener so that more of the energy that we use is from renewable sources?

Sourcing clean energy through power purchase agreements

Power purchase agreements (PPAs), through which we buy a clean energy producer’s energy in a long-term contract (typically 20 years), turned out to be an excellent answer.

When we enter into a PPA, we choose projects that add new renewable energy sources to the market. Providing developers with a solid commitment helps them get the capital they need to grow their capacity. In exchange, we get clean energy at competitive prices for the length of the contract, and we get the RECs to help offset our carbon footprint. We also get the satisfaction of assuring our users that their searches are carbon neutral.

Google’s PPAs: What, How, and Why

We purchase clean energy via power purchase agreements, or ‘PPAs’, because they create new clean energy now as well as help the renewable energy industry grow in the long-term. Learn more about PPAs and why we think they are a valuable solution for purchasing renewable energy.

Here’s what we actually do:

  1. Purchase energy from a renewable project developer.
  2. Sell that energy right back into the grid at a wholesale price.
  3. Apply the RECs to the “brown” energy used at our data centers.

Until renewable energy is readily and constantly available in the areas where we have data centers, we will continue to use PPAs to supply our data centers with clean energy.

Renewable energy for everyone else

In addition to investing in renewable energy for our own operations, we’re also investing in renewable power projects to grow the industry as a whole. Specifically, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects such as large-scale wind and rooftop solar. When added up, these projects represent a total capacity of over 1.7 GW,
which is far more electricity than we use for our own operations. To put this in context,
these projects will generate the same amount of energy used to power over 350,000 homes.

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