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Google says it is on course to have its global datacentre footprint powered by renewable energy sources by 2017, having pledged to purchase enough wind and solar power to support its global operations.
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In a blog post announcing the move, Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice-president of technical infrastructure, said reaching its 100% renewable energy goal is the result of a multi-year effort by the internet giant to improve its datacentre efficiency and drive down its use of fossil fuels.
“Our engineers have spent years perfecting Google’s datacentres, making them 50% more energy efficient than the industry average,” Hölzle wrote. “But we still need a lot of energy to power the products and services that our users depend on.”
In keeping with this, the company opened up earlier in 2016 about how the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in its datacentres has helped improve the energy efficiency of its facilities.
By 2017, the company will have acquired sufficient supplies of renewable energy to not only power its fleet of datacentres, added Hölzle, but its office-based operations too.
“To reach this goal we’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally,” he continued.
“And we’re focusing on creating energy from renewable sources, so we only buy from projects that are funded by our purchases.”
Aside from doing its bit to protect the environment, ramping up its use of renewable energy also makes good business sense too, said Hölzle.
“Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our datacentres, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy,” he said.
“To date, our purchasing commitments will result in infrastructure investments of more than $3.5bn globally, around two-thirds of that in the US.
“These projects also generate tens of millions of dollars per year in revenue to local property owners, and tens of millions more to local and national governments in tax revenue,” he added.
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Hitting its 100% renewable energy target will not mark the end of its sustainability efforts in this area, Hölzle continued, as the company is also keen to widen the range of green energy sources it uses over time.
“As we look to the immediate future, we’ll continue to pursue these direct contracts as we grow, with an even greater focus on regional renewable energy purchases in places where we have datacentres and significant operations,” he said.
“Since the wind doesn’t blow 24 hours a day, we’ll also broaden our purchases to a variety of energy sources that can enable renewable power, every hour of every day.”
News of Google’s progress in this area follows on from Amazon’s declaration that it will hit the halfway point on its own efforts to have all its datacentres powered by renewable energy sources by the end of 2017.
Amazon and Google, along with Microsoft and a number of other hyperscale internet firms, have made commitments to cut their consumption of fossil fuels in recent years, following concerns from sustainability experts about how the exponential growth of their operations could be affecting the environment.