By almost any measure, Google is a massive operation. According to research cited by Hubspot, the Alphabet-owned internet giant controls “more than 92% of the global search engine market” and processes an estimated 99,000 search queries every second. It takes a lot of energy to power all this data. As of 2022, the company’s global data centers used roughly twice as much electricity as the city of San Francisco, CNBC reported.
To lessen its environmental impact, Google has embarked on an ambitious program to achieve net-zero emissions across all its operations and value chains by 2030. This effort will require a major transition to renewable energy sources, including wind.
Photo Courtesy Timbermill Wind
In August, the company took another step toward its goal by partnering with Apex Clean Energy, a Virginia-based renewable energy developer, on a power purchase agreement to supply Google with wind power from a new wind farm in North Carolina.
The wind farm will be built in Chowan County with an initial investment of $350 million, the Power Technology website reported. Forty-five wind turbines will power the farm with a combined total capacity of 189 million megawatts — enough to meet the annual electricity needs of 47,000 households.
According to an Aug. 29 press release, Timbermill Wind will support Google’s 2030 commitment to powering its operations with carbon-free energy 24/7. The power purchase agreement will contribute to the clean energy needs of Googe’s data centers on the PJM grid, a regional transmission organization that spans 13 states and the District of Columbia.
This latest initiative builds on Google’s recent efforts to increase its use of clean energy. Since 2017, the company has matched its annual electricity consumption with 100% renewable energy.
“Within the decade, we have an ambitious goal for every Google data center to operate on clean electricity, every hour of every day,” Donna Calderon, Google’s energy senior lead, said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Apex for the first time to not only add wind power to one of the most difficult grids to decarbonize but also bring additional clean energy jobs to North Carolina.”
The project is expected to contribute about $33 million in tax revenue for the local community as well as more than 150 jobs during construction, according to the press release. It is part of a broader Google effort to reduce its emissions across all of the company’s data centers, offices, and upstream and downstream value chains.
The main focus areas include procuring clean energy, developing energy-efficient and low-carbon facilities, and promoting sustainable travel and commuting.
“For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make Google data centers some of the most efficient in the world, improving their environmental performance even as demand for our products has dramatically risen,” the company said on its website.
An April 2022 article from CNBC noted that Google had put a particular emphasis on lowering its power usage effectiveness (PUE), which measures the ratio of how much energy is used by a computer data center divided by the total energy used by the computing equipment.
Photo Courtesy PJM Interconnection
“A PUE of 1 means that all of the energy a data center uses goes towards the computing equipment,” according to CNBC. “A PUE of 2 means that for every unit of energy that goes to computing equipment, another equal unit of energy is used to cool the computer equipment and distribute power to the computing machines.”
In 2008, Google’s PUE was about 1.22. By the second quarter of 2021, that had fallen to 1.1. The average PUE at large data centers was 1.57 as of 2021, according to the Uptime Institute’s 2021 Data Center Survey.
Meanwhile, the Google collaboration also solidifies Apex’s position in renewable energy.
“Timbermill Wind demonstrates the Apex team’s unmatched ability to execute on our expansive portfolio, even in a region notoriously difficult to advance wind power,” Apex CEO Ken Young said in a news release. “Alongside Google, with shared values and an ambitious perspective of its role in the energy transition, we’re pleased to deliver this best-in-class project — one only achievable through this strong collaboration.”