Urs Holzle: How Google is powering the internet with renewables

Reading time: 5 minutes
3 December 2015

Today at COP21 Google announces it is part of the RE100 campaign, a global collaborative initiative of world leading companies committed to 100% renewable electricity, led by The Climate Group and delivered in partnership with CDP. Here, Urs Hölzle, SVP Technical Infrastructure, Google writes about how the search giant is closer to achieving its ambitious goal. 

Today we're announcing the largest, and most diverse, purchase of renewable energy ever made by a non-utility company. Google has already committed to purchase more renewable energy than any other company.

Now, through a series of new wind and solar projects around the world, we’re one step closer to our commitment to triple our purchases of renewable energy by 2025 and our goal of powering 100% of our operations with clean energy.  

Today’s agreements will add an additional 842 megawatts of renewable energy capacity to power our data centers. Across three countries, we’re nearly doubling the amount of renewable energy we’ve purchased to date.

We’re now up to 2 gigawatts—enough to power 2 million average European homes, or the equivalent to taking nearly 1 million cars off the road.

These additional 842 megawatts represent a range of locations and technologies, from a wind farm in Sweden to a solar plant in Chile.

  • 61 MW of solar power from Duke Energy, as its first customer under the Green Source Rider program that we helped to create, from a new solar facility to be built in Rutherford County, NC
  • 200 MW of wind power from RES Americas’ Bluestem wind farm to be built in Beaver County, Oklahoma
  • 200 MW of wind power from EDF Renewable Energy’s Great Western wind farm to be built in Dewey, Ellis, and Woodward Counties, Oklahoma
  • 225 MW of wind power from Invenergy LLC in the US
  • 80 MW of solar power from Acciona Energía’s El Romero solar farm to be built in the Atacama region of Chile
  • 76 MW of wind power from Eolus Vind’s Jenasen wind farm to be built in Västernorrland County, Sweden

These long-term contracts range from 10-20 years and provide projects with the financial certainty and scale necessary to build these wind and solar facilities—thus bringing new renewable energy onto the grid in these regions. For our part, these contracts not only help minimize the environmental impact of our services—they also make good business sense by ensuring good prices.

In addition to purchasing renewable energy for our own data centers, we’ve invested $2.5 billion in large-scale renewable energy projects, from Germany to Kansas to Kenya. Our goal is to help drive renewable energy development both as a customer and as an investor, and bring down costs for everyone.

Since we opened our very first owned data center in 2006, we’ve been working to promote renewable and sustainable energy use in several ways:

  • First, we’re building the world’s most efficient computer infrastructure by designing our data centers to use as little energy as possible.
  • Second, we're driving the renewables industry forward by fully committing to renewable sources. In 2010, we entered our first large-scale renewable power purchase agreement with a wind farm in Iowa, and we subsequently completed a number of similar large-scale energy purchases over the past five years. Today’s announcement is another milestone in this area.
  • Third, we've worked with our utility partners to help promote transformation in the utility sector. In 2013 we created a new program that enables customers like Google to buy large amounts of renewable energy directly from their utilities. Today's announcement includes the first solar project enrolled under that program. And this past summer we announced that our newest data center will be on located on the site of a retiring coal plant and will be 100% renewable powered from day one.  

And we’re also working on new technologies and ideas—ranging from Project Sunroof to Makani Power to air quality monitoring—that we hope can make a cleaner energy future an option for many more people.

With world leaders coming together at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Paris this week, there's no better time to focus on renewable energy. We hope that our efforts play a small part in boosting all of us in the race to solve climate change.

By Urs Hölzle, SVP Technical Infrastructure

  • Find out more about RE100 



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