A better web. Better for the environment.
Welcoming Internet Engine No. 15
Data centers are the engines of the Internet. As the next billion users come online—whether making payments from a mobile phone in Nairobi or
at Broad Institute in Boston—we need to increase our capacity to serve them, and keep things running blazing fast.
Today we’re announcing what will become our 15th global data center—we’re thrilled to be named new owners of the former Hemlock Semiconductor site in Montgomery County, Tennessee.
When selecting any site, we look at the unique attributes and base our designs around them to build the most efficient and high-performing data centers possible. For example, our newest data center
in Alabama, U.S.
will be built on the site of a coal power plant, and in
we built on an old paper mill and use seawater as the sole cooling mechanism.
The Hemlock site was originally developed as a Semiconductor manufacturing plant, but unfortunately was never completed. We’ll be able to re-use much of the existing infrastructure, and will recycle and re-design what we don’t. Based on our assessments, this site will be able to house new technologies we’re currently testing in research & development, which would make this data center the most technologically advanced in the world.
We are excited to again be working with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), who will be our electricity provider at this site. Thanks to an arrangement with TVA we’ll be able to scout new renewable energy projects and work with them to bring that power onto their electrical grid; another step toward Google’s ultimate goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy. As the largest corporate energy purchaser in the world,
we have signed 2 gigawatts of renewable energy supply contracts
to offset the power used across our portfolio of data centers—equivalent to taking nearly 1 million cars off the road.
It’s a real pleasure to be moving into this space, and to become a part of Montgomery County. Total investments in this project will amount to more than $600 million, and we’ll start engaging with city and county officials to launch a formal community grants program around three issues: science and technology education, clean energy, and access to the Internet.
While opening a data center can take years, we can’t wait to get to the drawing board to design the next internet engine in our lineup. Good things come to those who wait!
Posted by Joe Kava, VP, Data Center Operation
Notes from COP21
From November 30 through December 11, the French government hosted
the UN Climate Change Conference which resulted in 195 countries coming together to adopt the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. Roughly 40,000 people attended including 195 nations and thousands of NGOs and corporations.
Over the past two weeks in Paris, Googlers have been discussing how sustainability has been making good business sense for us. We believe that strong action from the business community is critical to meeting the climate challenge. We were official sponsors of COP21 through the French Government, we co-hosted an event with RE100 and The Climate Group on the role of industry in driving renewable energy growth, and we showcased a Google immersive
with rolling presentations of climate content from various partners!
At our event with
The Climate Group
, we hosted leaders from government and business at our Paris office to discuss the role that companies can play in leading the way to a 100% renewable energy future. More than 60% of global Fortune 100 companies have set public renewable energy or GHG reduction targets not only because they believe in environmental sustainability but because they think that renewable energy makes good business sense. Leaders from Google, Ikea, Unilever, Marks & Spencer, and Philips Lighting
discussed their business cases
for purchasing renewable energy, and were joined by officials from the European Commission and the South Australian Government to focus on the role of government policy in unlocking private sector demand for renewables.
To help showcase climate issues, the “Google Portal,” an immersive 9 screen, 3 x 3 meter square interactive display, was constructed in the public Climate Generations Area to allow people to explore and learn about their world, and to encourage public discussion. With 70 presentations, nonprofit demonstrations ranged from sea level rise by
, deforestation from
Global Forest Watch
from Underwater Earth and Sylvia Earle, and
on the current state of climate changes. The Mayor of Paris, along with a
broader coalition of mayors
, presented their climate commitments before formal submission to the United Nations. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization discussed
and land classification tool to enable country reporting and measurement and the EU Commission previewed the first look at a Global Water Surface map over the last 30 years. Google projects including
energy kites, the
Earth Engine platform
of the changing landscape, and YouTube’s
campaign were shown.
It's great to see a strong international climate agreement coming out of Paris that moves us towards a zero-carbon economy. Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time. Rising to that challenge involves a complex mix of policy, technology, and international cooperation and Google is committed to doing our part.
Posted by Kate Brandt, Lead for Sustainability
Should you go solar? Just ask Project Sunroof.
COP21 conference in Paris
comes to an end this week, we’re expanding
, our online tool to help homeowners explore whether they should consider installing solar panels to reduce their energy costs, which we
in August. Starting this week, millions of homeowners across
select metro areas
in the most active solar states in the U.S., including California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, Colorado and North Carolina, will be able to calculate their roof’s solar energy potential by using the same high-resolution aerial mapping technology used in Google Earth. Having this information will give you information on how to increase energy efficiency while cutting your monthly electric bill.
To provide accurate estimates,
uses a unique set of data that assesses how much sunlight your roof gets, the orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns—essentially creating a solar score for every rooftop that it maps. You can then provide your current average electricity costs and compare them to what you'd pay with solar. So not only can you learn whether your house is a good fit for solar panels, but you can also determine whether paying for installation will pay off in the long run -- in short, see the effect sunlight can have on your wallet.
Map of sunlight hitting roofs in downtown Boston
Solar installations today are growing rapidly (a system is installed every
in the U.S.), but there remains tremendous untapped potential. In fact, only half a percent of U.S. electricity comes from solar power. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s
U.S. Solar Market Insight Report
, the US is on track for a record-breaking year, thanks to a booming residential photovoltaics market. By end of 2016, cumulative solar installations are poised to nearly double.
Solar may help you cut costs while increasing efficiency. With
, you can more easily assess your home's solar energy potential—and help move us all toward a more renewable future.
Posted by Carl Elkin, Engineering Lead for Project Sunroof
Creating new pathways for buying renewable energy
In 2013, when we announced the
of our Lenoir, North Carolina data center, we proposed a program with our electricity provider Duke Energy that would allow companies like Google to power their local operations with renewable energy. Today, we’re announcing that we have signed on as the first customer of the program and we will be purchasing energy from a 61 MW solar project in Rutherford County, North Carolina—enough energy to power almost 12,000 average U.S. households.
By working closely with providers like Duke, we're now able to benefit from North Carolina's emerging solar energy industry and pave the way for other big customers to do the same. This is the first time that we're purchasing solar power in enough volume to power one of our data centers and it takes us another step towards
to eventually power 100% of our operations with renewable energy.
The program, called the
Green Source Rider
, is beneficial because it allows companies to buy large amounts of renewable power directly from their utilities, with no additional costs to other ratepayers. We were an early advocate of such programs and are pleased to see they have been adopted in 10 states, from Virginia to Washington.
As the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world, we (and our partners) want to encourage the countries and states in which we operate our data centers to add more renewable energy to their grids. To date, we’ve committed to purchase 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy under long term contracts globally. The impact on emissions is the same as taking 590,000 cars off the road.
We know that we have a lot more work to do. As we expand our efforts to additional regions where we operate, we’re looking forward to working with utility providers, developers of renewable energy projects, and other stakeholders. At a White House event in July, we
made a public pledge
to triple our renewable energy purchases for our data centers by 2025. So watch this space!
Posted by Gary Demasi, Data Center Energy and Location Strategy
Tracking our annual carbon footprint
As the world looks toward global climate negotiations at
COP21 in Paris
this December, we’d like to share updates on our commitment to carbon neutrality. The latest figures just posted on our
Google Green website
show that we're a carbon neutral company for the eighth year in a row, our carbon footprint is growing more slowly than our business, and our use of renewables continues to increase.
For 2014, we reported a carbon footprint of 2.49 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (
) to the Carbon Disclosure Project (
), a global nonprofit that collects and shares climate change data. Our carbon intensity, which is a way to measure the level of greenhouse gas emissions per million dollars of revenue, has dropped for the sixth year in a row: for every million dollars of revenue we generated in 2014, we emitted 22.9 metric tons of CO
e from our operations and buildings. That means that our footprint continues to grow more slowly than our business because we’re able to get more done with each gram of carbon we emit.
data center efficiency initiatives
renewable energy purchases
high-quality carbon offset purchases
all help bring our net carbon footprint back down to zero. For example, compared to five years ago in our data centers, we now get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy. Our focus on keeping our carbon footprint in check means that people using Google’s products can also feel good about the minimal environmental impact of their searches, Gmail messages, YouTube views, and more. Our calculation still holds true that serving an active Google user for one month is like driving a car just one mile.
We are the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. As of 2014, 37% of the electricity for our operations—which includes our offices, data centers and other infrastructure—came from renewable sources. That’s up from 35% in 2013, which is striking given how we’re growing as a company. To keep up with that growth, we’re continuing to sign new long-term energy contracts, including one that can power our entire main campus in Mountain View with
100% local wind energy
. These long term commitments are not only good for the environment, but they also make good business sense.
We are committed to making investments that ensure the amount of energy we get from renewable sources will increase significantly in the next couple of years and at the same time
add new capacity to the grid
. It's a pattern we anticipate will accelerate; we’ve also doubled down—make that tripled down!—this past summer with our
climate pledge to the White House to triple our renewable energy purchases over the next decade
Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time; Google wants to do its part and make a difference. We’ll continue to update you on that progress.
Posted by Rachel Futrell, Technical Program Manager, Data Center Sustainability at Google
Investing in Africa’s largest wind project
We’ve come a long way since we first started investing in renewable energy, committing more than $2 billion to 22 clean energy projects, and broadening our portfolio to include new regions like Africa. Since investing in
the continent’s largest solar projec
t, we’ve continued to see a big opportunity in fast-growing markets with rich renewable energy resources, where both the need and the potential are great. In fact, many countries are turning to renewables to help connect the nearly two-thirds of Africans that don’t have power today.
Today, we’re committing to invest in the
Lake Turkana Wind Power Project
in Northern Kenya, our second clean energy investment in Africa. When complete, Lake Turkana will bring 310 megawatts of clean energy onto Kenya’s grid—enough to power more than two million households across the country. Lake Turkana will help bring much needed capacity and stability to Kenya’s energy supply, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and emergency diesel generation while providing some of the most cost effective power in the country.
Google will join a diverse group of international investors in Lake Turkana,
the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. government’s development finance institution, and
, which is also supplying the turbines for the wind farm. We will purchase Vestas’ 12.5% stake in Lake Turkana once it comes online, becoming the first U.S. private investor to support the project.
Lake Turkana will use wind turbines like these, supplied by Vestas (photo courtesy of Vestas)
Lake Turkana will use wind turbines like these, supplied by Vestas (photo courtesy of Vestas)
Kenya ranks among the world’s fastest-growing economies and has goals of universal energy access and increasing capacity of the grid by 5GW by the end of the decade. Lake Turkana can help meet these goals. It offers one of the best wind resources in the world in terms of speed and consistency, and once operational, will deliver capacity equivalent to about 15% of Kenya’s current grid. It will also spur additional energy development in the region through a 266 mile transmission line that is being constructed to support the project. This transmission line will act as a backbone for the Kenyan grid and enable further geothermal capacity to be developed in the country’s Rift Valley.
As an investor in both the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind farm projects in Africa, we are as optimistic as ever about the potential for these investments to accelerate progress toward a
future of clean energy
. These efforts not only make business sense, they can help accelerate the deployment of renewable energy globally— including in emerging markets like Kenya, where there is an opportunity to have a transformative impact on the energy grid.
Posted by Rick Needham, Energy & Sustainability Director
Finalists Announced for the Little Box Challenge
A little over a year ago,
we partnered with the electrical engineering organization IEEE to launch
The Little Box Challenge
-- a competition
to build a much smaller power inverter. Contestants from around the world have been hard at work on the challenge since then. This July, over 100 teams submitted Technical Approach and Testing Applications to have their inverters tested at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's
Energy Systems Integration Facility
in Golden, Colorado this fall. We are proud to announce that the 18 teams selected to have their inverters tested are:
Eckart Hoene, Johann W. Kolar, Dominik Bortis, Yanick Lobsiger, Dominik Neumayr, Oliver Knecht, Florian Krismer, Stefan Hoffmann, Adam Kuczmik, Oleg Zeiter, Franc Zajc
Geoff Harvey, Alan Walbridge, Steve Love
Cambridge Active Magnetics
John Wood, Ed Shelton, Tim Regan, Ellen Wood, Kyle Rogers, Dr Kevin Rathbone, Sam Harrup
Evgeny Sboychakov, Ruslan Kotelnikov
Bernd Eckardt, Stefan Endres, Maximilian Hofmann, Stefan Matlok, Thomas Menrath, Martin März, Stefan Zeltner
Future Energy Electronics Center
Jih-Sheng Lai, Lanhua Zhang, Xiaonan Zhao, Rachael Born, Chung-Yi Lin, Ming-Chang Chou, Shu-Shuo Chang, Kye Yak See
Jack Zhu, Mari Ma
Martin Pietka, Andrej Teren, Marian Vranka, Lubos Drozd, Peter Sedlacko
Red Electrical Devils
Olivier Bomboir, Paul Bleus, Fabrice Frebel, Thierry Joannès, François Milstein, Pierre Stassain, Christophe Geuzaine, Carl Emmerechts, Philippe Laurent
Ionel Jitaru, Nicolae Daniel Bolohan, Antonio Marco Davila
Schneider Electric Team
Miao-xin Wang, Rajesh Ghosh, Srikanth Mudiyula, Radoslava Mitova, David Reilly, Milind Dighrasker, Sajeesh Sulaiman, Alain Dentella, Damir Klikic, Chandrashekar Devalapuraramegowda, Michael Hartmann, Vijaykumar Atadkar
The University of Tennessee
Daniel Costinett, Leon Tolbert, Fred Wang, Chongwen Zhao, Bradford Trento, Ling Jiang, Rick Langley, John Jansen, Reid Kress, Anthony Brun
Tommasi - Bailly
Mike Tommasi, Alain Bailly
UIUC Pilawa Group
Robert Pilawa, Shibin Qin, Christopher Barth, Yutian Lei, Wen-Chuen Liu, Andrew Stillwell, Intae Moon, Derek Chou, Thomas Foulkes
Herbert Venderbosch, Gerard Bruggink
The inverters brought to NREL will undergo extensive testing to verify that they meet the specifications of the competition. The announcement of the grand prize winner is expected to take place in early 2016.
Posted by Google Green Team
Cutting the crap: 8 things you may not know that Google is doing to reduce waste
Humankind is using up natural resources at an astonishing rate. Each year, our economy consumes far more than what the planet can naturally provide. Recent data shows that in 2015, society’s demand for resources will be
to 1.5 Earths -- clearly not a sustainable path.
Our everyday actions can help shrink this oversize footprint -- through things like traveling more efficiently or using cleaner energy -- and we’ve built
make it easier
. But companies should lead by example. That belief has propelled us to become the world’s biggest corporate purchaser of renewable power, a fully carbon-neutral company, and
But we won’t stop there. Today we’re excited to launch a new partnership, with the UK-based
Ellen MacArthur Foundation
, whose mission is to accelerate the transition to a regenerative “circular economy” -- an economy that eradicates waste through smart design.
In a traditional “linear” economy, waste is rampant: finite natural resources are taken from the Earth, made into products, and ultimately disposed. A circular economy creates a more lasting, closed-loop system: it reduces the use of finite resources, and focuses on ways to continuously cycle materials back into the economy -- like renewable energy resources and highly reusable materials. As the Foundation explains in the video below, the circular approach can offer big advantages for both the planet and the financial bottom line.
Fortunately, we’re not starting at square one. Our current waste reduction efforts span many areas of our business -- and demonstrate at what circular economy principles can look like in practice. Here are several ways Google has already begun to “cut the crap”:
Cutting energy waste
Over the last five years, we’ve improved our data center operations and hardware to get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of electricity.
energy! At our main campus, we pipe in
from a local landfill to supply a portion of our electric and heating needs.
Cutting materials waste
Since 2007, we've repurposed enough outdated servers to avoid buying over 300,000 new replacement machines.
As we’ve designed and constructed new buildings in the last year, our recycling of demolition waste and onsite materials kept more than
10,000 tons of material out of landfills.
Cutting food waste
In addition to our large-scale composting program, we use a software system in our kitchens to track pre-consumer food waste (expired items, trimmings, etc.). At our Bay Area campuses alone, this system has prevented more than 170,000 pounds of food going into the waste stream over the past year.
A growing number of o
ur kitchens serve baked goods and other foods made with
, a flour derived from traditionally discarded parts of a coffee plant.
Cutting water waste
At our Atlanta data center, our
reuse water system
enables us to use recycled wastewater from a local sewage treatment plant for our cooling needs.
At our main campus, we invest in drought-resistant landscaping and irrigate with recycled water whenever possible. We’re on track for a 30 percent reduction in campus water use by the end of this year compared to 2013.
Our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will help us take our waste reduction and sustainability programs to the next level. Over the coming months, we’ll be working with the Foundation to explore and shape a series of initiatives to embed circular economic principles into the fabric of Google’s infrastructure, operations, and culture. Circle back with us in the coming year to hear more about where these projects take us and how they’ll support our ongoing commitment to the planet.
Posted by Jim Miller, VP of Worldwide Operations
Making the invisible visible by mapping air quality
How clean is the air we breathe? How much climate-warming greenhouse gases are our cities emitting? These are difficult questions to answer because most air pollution is measured at a city level, not at the neighborhood or community level which is more relevant to people's daily lives. With street-level air pollution data, a parent of an asthmatic child could reduce exposure to air pollution that causes asthma attacks when they go to the park to play. Bike commuters and outdoor enthusiasts could find the healthiest route for their trips.
Or a city planner could pinpoint areas of low air quality in her city and devise specific solutions to improve it
. Seeing where and when the air quality is good or bad could help identify how to reduce pollution most effectively—like changing traffic light patterns to reduce idling traffic or keeping heavy trucks out of neighborhoods that are most vulnerable.
Today at the
2015 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting
in New York, we’re
that we will measure air pollution in more communities and map air quality at the street level. This follows our
Environmental Defense Fund
leaking from natural gas local distribution systems, and our
project to map multiple air pollutants
in Denver with Aclima, which we
Now, we’re equipping
Google Street View
cars with Aclima’s air pollution sensing platform to
measure and map air quality in at least three major metropolitan areas in California, including communities in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Central Valley regions. With 38 million residents and nearly 30 million registered vehicles, managing California’s air quality is among the most challenging problems in the United States.
Street View car equipped with Aclima’s air pollution sensing platform
At high concentrations, particulate matter, black carbon, ozone, and other pollutants can trigger
attacks and make
. Worldwide, these pollutants lead to
millions of premature deaths
These are the pollutants our cars will be measuring. Scientists working with
Environmental Defense Fund
(EDF) and other partners are already helping us determine how the equipped vehicles should drive in order to collect data more efficiently. We’ll make the data collected during our drives available on
Google Earth Engine
to scientists and air quality experts, including the EDF and others, who will help analyze and model the data with the goal of linking human health impacts to air pollution and exploring other applications at a community level.
In the long run, our vision is to enable individuals, communities and policy-makers to make smart decisions to improve their health and our environment. By putting street-level air quality information overlaid on Google Earth and Google Maps,
we’re making it more useful and actionable. And this, we hope, will lead to cleaner air.
Posted by Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Program Manager, Google Earth Outreach
Project Sunroof: mapping the planet’s solar energy potential, one rooftop at a time
The cost of solar power is at a record low. A typical solar home can save
hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on their electricity bill. But,
as a volunteer with the Boston-based solar program Solarize Massachusetts and a solar homeowner myself, I’ve always been surprised at how many people I encounter who think that “my roof isn’t sunny enough for solar,” or “solar is just too expensive.” Certainly many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.
, my recent 20% project. Project Sunroof is
a new online tool we’re testing to help homeowners explore whether they should go solar. Available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno (in central California), and the Boston area for now,
the tool uses high-resolution aerial mapping (the same used by Google Earth) to help you calculate
roof’s solar energy potential, without having to climb up any ladders.
If you’re in one of our test regions, simply enter your address and Project Sunroof will crunch the numbers. It first figures out
how much sunlight hits your rooftop throughout the year, taking into account factors like roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns. You can also enter your typical electric bill amount to customize the results. The tool then combines all this information to estimate the amount you could potentially save with solar panels, and it can help connect you with local solar providers.
Google has always been a big believer in zero-carbon energy, and solar power has been a central part of that vision -- from
the growth of rooftop solar, to helping
the largest solar farm in Africa, to
one of America’s biggest campus solar arrays here in Mountain View. While Project Sunroof is in a pilot phase for now, during the coming months we’ll be exploring how to make the tool better and more widely available. If you find that your address isn’t covered by the tool yet, you can leave your email address and we’ll let you know when Project Sunroof is ready for your rooftop!
Posted by Carl Elkin, Engineering Lead for Project Sunroof
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