Google Green

Using green power

A closer look

Piloting new technology

One of the ways we support the development of new technologies is by piloting them on our own turf—putting our campuses on the cutting edge of renewable energy use. We’ve tried new renewable energy options that help our operations run more efficiently while helping these technologies evolve and scale more rapidly.

In addition to our 1.9 MW solar array, we've incorporated other forms of renewable energy into our corporate campuses. This includes running a 970 kW cogeneration unit off our local landfill gas, which not only removes the methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, but converts it into electricity and heat that we use on campus. We've also installed an efficient ground source heat pump and deployed solar water heating on our office buildings in Mountain View, Hyderabad, and Tel Aviv.

Criteria for bringing new technologies on campus

They make good business sense.

In other words, we are confident that the technology will deliver a return on investment (ROI) in a reasonable period of time. For example, the 1.7 MW solar installation we implemented in 2007 produces over 3,000,000 kWh of clean energy per year, saving us a great deal in energy costs and reducing our carbon footprint.

They have long term potential to transform the industry.

We believe that by putting our dollars and resources behind a promising new technology—or allowing companies to use our campus as a testing ground—the technology will have a better chance of making it to market and scaling. For example, in 2007, we hosted the first installation of a promising new fuel cell technology that has the potential to use biogas. The company, also based in the Bay Area, was able to more quickly evolve the technology by having a working real-world pilot nearby.

Mountain View solar panels

Purchasing clean energy

Where possible, Google powers its operations with renewable power by buying this energy directly from our utility providers and from green energy facilities in the same grid regions as our data centers. By signing long term contracts for this power, Google provides the utilities and developers financial certainty, which removes a significant roadblock to building renewable facilities and expands the amount of renewable energy on the grid. We've now signed seven contracts for 1,040 MW of wind energy, which is enough to power over 300,000 U.S. households. This is an important step toward our long-term goal of powering our operations with 100% renewable energy.

Additionally, we hold ourselves to the highest standards when purchasing renewables. Our contracts meet strict criteria to ensure that our purchases are of the highest quality. First, they create new sources of green power on the grid. Second, the renewable attributes from the agreements are applied to our power consumption in the same year the energy is generated. And third, we purchase an equal quantity of energy and green attributes at the same time. The details of our renewable Power Purchase Agreement strategy are publicly available to provide a blueprint for other companies to green their operations and the grid.

Google's Power Purchase Agreements

We've signed five large-scale Power Purchase Agreements (or PPAs), which are long-term financial commitments to buy renewable energy from specific facilities. The first is for 114 MW of wind generation from NextEra’s Story County II facility in Iowa, and the second is for 100.8 MW of wind generation from their Minco II facility in Oklahoma. The third is for 72 MW of output from a wind farm under construction in Northern Sweden. The fourth is for 239.2 MW of wind generation from a wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. The fifth is for the entire electricity output (59 MW) of four new wind farms to be built in southern Sweden. We've also signed two agreements directly with our utility providers, as detailed in the section below.

The power we purchase via these contracts is incorporated into the regional power grids from which we draw our electricity. These contracts also provide clean energy developers certainty on the payments for their power, which allows them to build these projects and/or obtain additional financing to build new projects. They also help us secure clean energy in the future—for ourselves and the world.

We’ve made the details of our power procurement strategy publicly available to provide a useful blueprint for other companies to green their operations and the grid. Read on about our criteria for PPA projects and other details on how we purchase green power.

Working with utility providers

We’ve also been working closely with our utility partners to find ways to source renewables directly. In September 2012, we signed an agreement with the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to supply Google’s Mayes County, Oklahoma data center with 48 MW of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind project in west central Oklahoma.

In April 2014, we signed our second agreement with MidAmerican Energy to supply our Council Bluffs, Iowa data center with up to 407 MW of wind energy from several wind projects built as part of MidAmerican’s Wind VIII program. The agreement fully supplies the first phase of our facilities in Council Bluffs with 100% renewable wind energy and will allow additional phases to be supplied with wind energy as we grow.

In addition, we've been working with a number of utilities to develop a new service offering that would give Google and other electricity consumers the option of purchasing renewable energy directly from local utilities. In 2013, we worked with Duke Energy in North Carolina to develop a new, voluntary program called the Green Source Rider for large customers in the state that want to buy renewable energy.

We've released a white paper explaining the benefits of renewable energy tariffs and offering guidelines on how utilities and large energy consumers can develop their own proposals.

Video: Our Power Purchase Agreements