Google consumed around 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year. It’s a lot of power, but the search giant is working hard to ensure the electricity it needs is not only green, but to use as little of it as possible.
While generating around 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions last year, Google says it is carbon neutral when the renewable energy and offsets it purchases are taken into account.
Google heavily invests in renewable energy projects through power purchase agreements; buying energy from sources such as wind farms near its data centers. For example, in July 2011, the company announced a 20 year purchase agreement with a 114 megawatt wind farm in Iowa.
The company’s data centers, where its many thousands of servers are working away (guesstimates are around 500,000 units globally), are widely recognised as being among the most efficient in the world, using only half of the energy of most other data centers.
A few years back, a report was published showing the carbon footprint of an average search on Google estimated as being quite high – around 7 grams a search. Google rejected the claim, saying it uses about 0.0003 kWh of energy to answer the average search query, which is roughly around 0.2g of carbon dioxide. Again, the company’s renewable energy and offset purchases effectively bring this down to 0 – at Google’s end of things anyway.
Google isn’t just about search of course. It operates many services, among the better known are Gmail and Youtube. The company says streaming 1 minute of YouTube video uses around 0.0002 kWh, and generates approximately 0.1 g carbon dioxide. For GMail, each user requires around 2.2 kWh every year, and generates 1.2 kg of carbon dioxide.
At its Mountain View campus in the USA, Google has installed 1.6 megawatts of solar panels that generate 3 million kWh of electricity annually. These solar panels provide 30% of the peak power required by the buildings upon which they are located.
In addition to supplying and offsetting its own operations, Google has poured a huge chunk of cash into other renewable energy projects. In June 2011, Google announced the creation of a USD$280 million fund to finance residential solar energy. Under the initiative, extended solar leasing and power purchase agreements will be offered to households wanting to install home solar power systems.
Google’s green efforts aren’t just warm and fuzzy tree-hugging stuff; it’s simply good business.
More statistics and information on strategies the company is putting in place to minimize its environmental impact and help accelerate the clean energy revolution can be viewed at Google Green – The Big Picture.
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