Google has done it. Or to be precise, Google’s data centres and offices will be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2017.
The company said it’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity their operations consume, globally. In comparison, 44% of Google’s power supplies came from renewables last year.
Google is already the world’s largest private buyer of renewal energy, leaving companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook far behind. The company says the decision also makes more business sense, as renewable energy is the lowest cost option.
Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option. Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy, said Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior VP of technical infrastructure, in a blog post on the initiative.
Hölzle wrote that the 100% renewable target, which the company set in 2012, “is just the first step”:
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 data centres and significant operations. 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.
Which means the company also has plans to explore other forms of renewable sources.
We want to do contracts with forms of renewable power that are more baseload-like, so low-impact hydro; it could be biomass if the fuel source is sustainable, it could be nuclear, God forbid, we’re not averse. We’re looking at all forms of low-carbon generation, said Marc Oman, EU energy lead at Google.