For the past few years, Google has been at the forefront of some of the largest projects between the renewable energy industry and the private sector. Collectively, the company has committed over $1 billion to renewable energy projects since 2010. But efforts to mitigate its carbon footprint started years before. In 2007, for example, Google installed thousands of solar panels on the rooftop of its Mountain View, California corporate headquarters. The panels greatly contribute to the power at the facility, offering 1.9 megawatts of solar capacity at any given time. On their Google Green webpage, the company touts that it has covered over a third of its operations’ electrical draw through renewable energy resources.
In December 2009, the company established Google Energy; a subsidiary of their search engine operations that’s designed to procure and distribute clean energy. As of this month, Google Energy has purchased several large-scale Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) totaling almost 300 megawatts of wind energy capacity in places like Iowa, Oklahoma, and Sweden over the last four years. PPAs allow Google to receive lower energy rates for some of their operations. The company then retires renewable energy credits for the wind energy they use, and then sells off the remainder of generated electricity to wholesale electric markets.
Google Energy took their renewable portfolio one step further on September 17th, when the company purchased 240 megawatts of wind energy outside of Amarillo, TX. The agreement boosts the sum of its wind energy by 80 percent in a single day. “The Happy Hereford farm, which is expected to start producing energy in late 2014, is being developed by Chermac Energy, a small, Native American-owned company based in Oklahoma” writes Mike Pfile, Google Senior Manager of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy. Much like the other wind energy purchases Google makes, one of its data centers is located within the same regional grid pool that the wind farm will serve.
Due to the grid’s structure, the energy generated at Happy Hereford cannot be directly used by Google’s data facility in Oklahoma. However, the be-all, end-all is that 240 megawatts of wind energy capacity will enter the electrical grid. This new wind energy will reduce the cumulative carbon footprint of the region.
As Pfile mentioned in Google’s press release, the company now owns enough wind energy capacity to power 170,000 households, which is an astronomical amount of energy over a short period of time! Based on this, Google’s Happy Hereford farm purchase does not appear to be the last for the foreseeable future. To find out more about Google’s renewable energy efforts, read my article, “Google Embraces the Energy Industry,” from earlier this year.
Photo Credit: Google and Wind Energy/shutterstock