At some point in our lexicon, Google morphed from a search engine into a common adjective. It’s natural to hear someone say, “I’ll google it.” And while Google is a search engine, it also provides other internet-related services including online advertising and cloud computing. But Google’s expanding their reach in the clouds – literally.
In April, the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant announced that it will deploy a carbon-intelligent computing platform at its very large data centers as a way to shift the timing of certain computing tasks to when low-carbon power sources such as wind and solar are most plentiful. The initiative is part of Google’s bigger plan to help lower the electrical grid’s carbon footprint and move the company closer to carbon-free energy throughout the day.
One of the primary facilities where Google will be pioneering this technology is at its Berkeley County data center in South Carolina. Google originally announced their Palmetto State plans in 2007. The area was a good fit largely due to its combination of energy infrastructure, developable land, and available workforce. In 2013, Google unveiled plans to expand the facility, bringing its total investment to $2.4 billion. To date, the center has generated more than 400 jobs, awarded more than $2 million to local schools and nonprofits and also aided in the implementation of free downtown WiFi networks throughout the Lowcountry.
Using this new technology, the Berkeley data center platform will compare the next day’s weather forecasts with the data center’s forecasted workload. The goal is to predict how the average hourly carbon output of the local electrical grid will change over the course of a day, and the hourly power resources needed to carry out its computing tasks over the same time period. Google then uses the two forecasts to align computing tasks so that they correspond to times of low-carbon electricity supply. Put simply, the company hopes to maximize tasks that consume more energy during periods when the weather is sunny and/or windy to optimize the use of clean energy. During other periods, the data centers might rely more heavily on carbon-based power sources such as coal.
Google has announced plans to invest more than $10 billion in U.S. offices and data centers in 2020, including new investments in eleven states stretching from California and Washington to Ohio, Pennsylvania and even Massachusetts. This funding builds upon Google’s investment of $13 billion in the U.S. in 2019. These actions translate to a major impact on towns where Google has set up operations – especially communities that landed data centers like Berkely, South Carolina. The establishment of these data centers has not only resulted in job growth and economic development but also in millions of dollars in charitable giving from Google.