Google’s renewable energy purchase for datacentres soars over 1GW

Google's latest agreement with MidAmerican Energy to power its Iowa datacentre with 407MW of wind energy takes its renewable energy deals to 1GW

Internet giant Google has entered an agreement with a US utility provider to power its Iowa datacentre facilities with up to 407MW (megawatts) of 100% renewable wind energy.

This energy contract, Google’s largest renewable energy commitment so far, takes its renewable energy contracts to over one gigawatt (1,000MW). To put this in perspective, in 2012, UK’s datacentre power requirement was 2.85GW, of which 650MW was outsourced.

The 1GW green energy contract, with supplier MidAmerican Energy, will not only cover its current facilities at Iowa but will also allow for future datacentre expansion powered with renewable energy, Google’s energy programme  managers, Sam Arons and Neha Palmer said.

The wind power to cool datacentre infrastructure will come from MidAmerican Energy’s several wind projects.

Under the contract, the utilities provider will fully power the first phase of Google’s datacentre facilities in Iowa with 100% renewable wind energy, bundled with and tracked by renewable energy certificates, and will allow additional phases to be supplied with wind-sourced energy as Google expands its IT in Iowa.

“Google’s significant and growing presence within our service area, along with its commitment to renewable energy, have been important factors in MidAmerican Energy’s pursuit of renewable power,” said Bill Fehrman, president and chief executive, MidAmerican Energy. “In addition to increasing Google’s access to renewable energy, this agreement also reduces energy costs for our customers.”

The contract represents Google’s seventh renewable energy purchase since 2010. Google’s first green energy contract was with from NextEra’s Story County II facility in Iowa for 114MW of wind generation. It then contracted NextEra’s Minco II facility in Oklahoma for 100.8MW of wind energy. It recently entered an agreement to purchase 239MW of renewable energy from a wind farm in Texas. In Europe, Google has committed to purchase 72MW of output from a wind farm under construction in Northern Sweden and another agreement to buy the entire electricity output (59MW) of four new wind farms under construction in southern Sweden. 

In addition to these five wind energy power deals, Google entered into an agreement with the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to use 48MW of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind Project to power its Oklahoma datacentre.

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) such as this one are a big part of Google’s carbon neutrality commitment that it made in 2007.

“We’re working to make this whole process easier for other companies by advocating for renewable energy tariffs,” Arons and Palmer said. “But it’s not just our own operations we want to green: Google has also invested over $1bn in 15 renewable energy investments around the world in an effort to put more renewable energy on the grid and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Google’s commitment to using sustainable sources of energy in its datacentres made it the first North American company to obtain ISO 50001 certification for its energy management systems in several datacentre facilities in the US.

In its latest report, environmental campaign group Greenpeace has also praised the technology giant’s environmental performance and called it a “green Internet innovator”.

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