Google Servers Powered Increasingly by Wind

Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:16am EDT

Google signed a second power purchase agreement (PPA) to increase the share of electricity it consumes in its data centers from renewable energy.

Under a PPA, companies sign a 20 year agreement which locks in electric prices.

Last year, its Google Energy subsidiary signed a PPA with a NextEra wind project in Iowa to buy 114 megawatts (MW) of wind for 20 years.

Now, they signed to buy an additional 100.8 MW of wind from NextEra Energy's Minco II Wind Energy Center in Oklahoma.

The company is buying wind energy from projects that are on the same grid as its data centers. Google is opening a center in Oklahoma this year.

NextEra (Florida Power & Light's wind subsidiary) is one of the largest wind developers in North America, with 85 projects in 17 states.

Greenpeace recently released a study, How Dirty is Your Data: A Look at the Energy Choices that Power Cloud Computing. It demonstrates that much of the energy fueling the Internet comes from fossil fuels, particularly coal.

"We need to pay attention to what's behind the curtain," the report says regarding the advent of cloud computing. "It's converting our work, finances, health and relationships into invisible data, centralised in out-of-the-way storage facilities or data centres. There are many positives to this, but are companies addressing this growing environmental footprint?"

Some conclusions:

Data centers to house the explosion of virtual information currently consume 1.5-2 percent of global electricity, and is growing at a rate of 12 percent a year.

Instead of powering factories with coal, we're not powering information technologies with coal. Over half the companies they rated rely on coal for 50 percent-80 percent of their energy.

IT innovations give us the ability to work from home with teleconferencing and telecommuting tools, stream music instead of buying CDs, etc. which reduce energy consumption. But dirty energy is fueling much of these innovations.

Of the 10 brands graded, Akamai, a global content distribution network, earned the top rank for transparency; Yahoo! had the strongest infrastructure siting policy; Google & IBM demonstrated the most comprehensive approaches to reduce their carbon footprint.

Besides Google, Microsoft is buying wind energy for its Dublin data center. i/o Data Centers is installing a massive 4.5 MW solar array on the roof of its 580,000 sq ft facility in Phoenix.

Next Generation Data in Wales says it's powered by 100 percent renewables through a purchasing agreement with SmartestEnergy (UK). In Iceland, GreenQloud runs completely on geothermal and hydropower.

Photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann/flickr/Creative Commons

Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business