Google matches 2017 electrical energy use with renewable power

The amount of solar and wind energy purchased by Google in 2017 was greater than the volume of electrical energy used at the company’s offices and data centres around the world, effectively matching its electrical energy output with renewable energy.

The company has contracts to purchase 3GW of energy from renewable energy sources, compared to just over 1GW each purchased by Amazon and Microsoft, and around 600MW purchased by Apple. Google claims that its renewable energy contracts have resulted in over $3 billion in new capital investment around the world.

“We’ve been working toward this goal for a long time,” said senior vice president of technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle in a blog post. “At the outset of last year, we felt confident that 2017 was the year we’d meet it. Every year, we sign contracts for new renewable energy generation projects in markets where we have operations.

“From the time we sign a contract, it takes one to two years to build the wind farm or solar field before it begins producing energy,” he said.

Google’s renewable projects covered 57% of the energy used by the company in 2016, when Google also signed a record number of contracts for wind and solar developments that were as of yet unfinished. Once the projects were completed by 2017, the company was able to match a significantly higher percentage of its electricity use.

The company reportedly produces 1.5 million tonnes of carbon annually, with its data centres contributing to 2% of America’s electricity use, similar to the contribution of the airline industry. Yet Hölzle plans to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of these centres, rather than replace them outright.

“We’re building new data centres and offices, and as demand for Google products grows, so does our electricity load,” he said.

“We need to be constantly adding renewables to our portfolio to keep up. So we’ll keep signing contracts to buy more renewable energy.”

The news is in keeping with the 2018 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, which stated that solar power was the world’s fastest-growing energy technology in 2017.