A better web. Better for the environment.
Trimming Our Waste-line: The Moonshot to Zero
Jim Miller, vice president of global operations at Google
The current economy is built on waste and is extremely energy-intensive. It’s essentially “linear”—we dig up some materials, turn that into a product, ship it to an "end user," who eventually tosses it in the trash. But recent data shows that in 2015, global demand for resources was
to 1.5 times what Earth can support in one year. Quite clearly, a linear economy is unsustainable.
We should instead be moving toward a “circular” economy: That means instead of using raw resources (think timber and ore) to create new products, we keep materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished or recycled. We already do this in some places: Think of when cotton clothing is reused first as second-hand apparel, then crosses to the furniture industry as fiber-fill in upholstery, which is later reused in stone wool insulation for construction. But there are many more opportunities for businesses to change their use and reuse of resources.
The circular approach to server management
At Google, we’ve been working on
weaving circular economy principles into our operations
and have evidence that we don’t need to sacrifice one shade of green for another. By applying these approaches to our server management, we have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in material costs.
To date, six of our operating Google data centers—nearly half—have achieved 100 percent landfill diversion of all waste. In fact, our data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma, is our first Google data center to officially reach
Zero Waste to Landfill
we are committing to achieve zero waste in all our data centers globally
—an ambitious goal and just the kind of challenge that excites us.
Although the last 10 to 20 percent of diversion will be the most difficult to solve, it is also where we see the most opportunity to get creative about new community partnerships and designing waste streams out all together.
Here’s how we’re doing it: Google’s data centers work 24/7 to deliver Gmail to a billion users and stream hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos a day. This means we are constantly upgrading and maintaining our servers to make sure we meet the increasing demand for our products around the world. Before we buy new equipment and materials, we look for ways to reuse what we already have. When we can’t find a new use for our equipment, we completely erase any components that store data, and then resell them into the market—giving them a second life. In 2015, 52 percent of components used for machine upgrades were refurbished inventory and Google resold nearly 2 million units into the secondary market for reuse by other organizations. The small percentage of hardware that we can’t reuse or resell gets recycled. Which means none of the waste that leaves these data centers goes to a landfill.
Data center engineer refurbishing a server component
It’s not just data centers; there are many ways we can rethink how we treat waste, from electronics to cars to food. We are sharing
how we made this happen in our data centers
to help system operators at other companies find their own way to adopt similar practices.
In addition to material efficiency, we are dedicated to energy efficiency and the use of clean power to operate our data centers. Compared to five years ago, we now get around 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy. Today, we are the
largest, non-utility, corporate renewable energy purchaser
in the world. This means businesses that use our cloud-based products are greener too; a typical organization can see carbon and energy savings in their IT infrastructure between 65 to 85%.
Our offices have also been looking at
innovative ways to design out waste
. For example, in the Bay Area we have already achieved an 86 percent landfill diversion rate. In addition to our large-scale composting program, we use a software system called LeanPath in our kitchens to track pre-consumer food waste (expired items, over-produced, spoiled, etc.). At our Bay Area campuses alone, this system has prevented more than 392,492 pounds of food going into the waste stream over the past year. Additionally, our imperfect produce initiative has utilized 330,000 pounds of produce in the Bay area that would have gone to waste, in turn wasting the land, water, energy, and other resources necessary to develop that produce.
Imperfect produce served in Google cafes reduces waste and tastes delicious in soups and stews
Google is also utilizing as much as possible from every ingredient. One example is piloting the use of an innovative food product known as Coffee Flour. A growing number of our kitchens now serve baked goods and other foods made with a flour derived from traditionally discarded parts of a coffee plant—the coffee cherry. We are going beyond what is typical and bringing those items into our nutritious food offerings.
Ultimately, this massive shift requires global businesses to lead the way to reduce our dependence on primary materials and fossil fuels. But the good news is, a shift like this isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for bottom lines. In the 2015 study “Growth Within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe,” the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey and SUN estimated that shifting to a circular economy could be worth €1.8 trillion to Europe by 2030.
from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests that €1.2 trillion of that overall potential comes from the information and communications technology sector. This kind of value can be unlocked globally and gains are anticipated to be even larger in the US.
Becoming circular is something we hope all companies will commit to, together. It is certainly a challenge to change in the way we make things and use them, but it's not impossible. And, in the end, it pays—in our own bottom lines, in our broader economy, and in the environment we all share together.
Six Google Data Centers are Diverting 100% of Waste from Landfill
Rachel Futrell, Technical Program Manager, Data Center Sustainability
Sustainability doesn’t end with a really low PUE for our data centers. Sustainability is an important business practice we strive to incorporate into all areas of our operations. A key part of this is how resources are managed. Here we define resources as the “things” that make up our data centers—both the buildings themselves, as well as all the stuff inside. This includes the waste that is generated at a data center—it’s a resource too. The more material we can reduce and use sustainably, the more effective and efficient our operations will be.
Over the past few years we’ve started focusing downstream on what resources we’re generating via waste. We’ve been working towards zero waste to landfill at our facilities, as well as reducing the amount of waste we’re generating.
Today, we are announcing a new commitment to achieve Zero Waste to Landfill for our global data center operations.
At Google, Zero Waste to Landfill means that when waste leaves our data centers, none of it goes to a landfill—100 percent is diverted to a more sustainable pathway, with no more than 10% of it going to a waste-to-energy facility, unless waste-to-energy can be proved more valuable than alternative diversion paths. Our approach is based off the
standard created by UL Environment
who we partnered with to ensure the guidelines we created for our facilities were aligned and compliant with how UL defines and monitors the process.
Six of our 14 sites are achieving 100 percent diversion rates. Globally across our data center operations we are diverting at least 86 percent of waste away from landfills.
At our operating data centers in Europe and APAC we have reached 100 percent diversion from landfill which currently includes a contribution from waste to energy of greater than 10 percent. These data centers include: Dublin, Ireland; Hamina, Finland; St Ghislain, Belgium; Changhua County, Taiwan and Singapore. As we continue to implement new diversion strategies and ways to design waste out altogether that percentage will decrease.
Our data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma is our first Google data center to reach Zero Waste to Landfill.
So, how did we get here, where have we had big successes? There have been a couple of themes for success. Find projects that do double duty—those that not only reduce or divert waste, but also have an added benefit, like energy savings or improved process efficiency. For example, our Mayes County data center has deployed compactors to help manage waste. Not only does it help divert waste more effectively, it also gives us accurate weight data for tracking, reduces the number of pick-ups our vendor has to make (saving us and them time and money) and is cleaner overall for the site (reducing how much janitorial work is needed).
Second, sometimes you don’t have to eliminate a waste stream or find a new diversion pathway to reduce the amount of waste, instead you can also look at extending it’s life—then you’re buying less and disposing of less. The same concepts we
apply to server management
, we apply to our maintenance operations to keep the data centers up and running.
Third, expect the unexpected, waste streams do not stay the same, they change and evolve over time depending on your operations. Be prepared for random new waste products and be flexible. Frequently the last 10 to 20 percent of waste diversion can be the hardest to solve, but understanding these processes is critical to success.
We’ve learned a lot along this journey and will continue to learn more—the effort certainly has not been wasteful. Zero waste to landfill requires a careful attention to the types of materials you’re generating and a deep understanding of your resource pathways. All these learnings allow us to keep pushing towards zero waste to landfill, but also to start looking upstream to add
circular economy practices
into our operations. Zero waste to landfill is just the first step in a long process to sustainably manage our resources throughout the entire lifecycle of our data centers.
Example of the compactor used on-site
From our Mayes County Data Center: Clear and fun signage in our cafes help make sure waste ends up in the right location
Even the android pitches in to make sure waste is sorted correctly and gets to the right spot
New Renewable Energy in Georgia Reduces Cost for All Customers
Posted by Will Fadrhonc, Energy Policy and Markets Team
Last week, the Georgia Public Services Commission approved Georgia Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, a long-term planning tool that helps to guide the company’s development strategy. We’re pleased that as a result of efforts by Google and others, the plan calls for 1,500 megawatts (MW) of new renewable development for the state as well creation of an additional 200MW program for commercial and industrial customers who wish to buy renewables more directly.
This is a big deal for a region that is still in the early stages of scaling up opportunities for renewable energy. Our utility provider Georgia Power, responding to customer demand for wind, solar, and biomass, now has almost 2,000MW of renewables online in the state, and approval for an additional 1,500MW as a result of this IRP. This is a win for clean energy advocates and all Georgia Power customers, as the renewables coming online will only be authorized if they are cheaper than Georgia Power’s existing grid power, meaning that each MW of renewables coming online will reduce the cost of energy for all customers.
The 200MW C&I purchasing program is the result of urging by Google and a consortium of national and international businesses. We participated in the regulatory process to encourage Georgia Power to adopt more, cost effective renewables, and enable commercial and industrial customers to directly procure renewable power in the state. While the details of this program will need to be fleshed out and approved by the Georgia PSC, we are hopeful that this program will give companies like Google a scalable and sustainable way to source clean energy in Georgia. We look forward to continue working with Georgia Power, the PSC, and other stakeholders in the development of this program and share updates on our progress.
Google Data Center in Douglas County, Georgia
First solar-powered plane completes maiden round-the-world tour, setting 19 world records
Posted by Amy Atlas, Communications Lead for Google Green
At 4:05am local time today, an atypical plane landed on a tarmac in Abu Dhabi: Si2, a futuristic aircraft entirely powered by solar energy.
It was imagined and built by the two Swiss explorers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who founded Solar Impulse to promote the use of clean energies. They set the goal of circumnavigating the world by air, powered by the sun, with no fuel or polluting emissions. Starting in 2004, it took the team more than a decade to design and proof test this unique aircraft. Si2 took off in March 2015 for a 17-leg journey, spanning over 26,000 miles and using 11,000 kWh worth of solar energy. After 510 flying hours, Si2 has set 19 world records, according to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), on this historic expedition.
Google helped build and host Solar Impulse’s digital presence, and on the first day of their round-the-world journey, we jointly launched the
, a platform to encourage the world to support the adoption of necessary clean technologies.
We’re deeply committed to powering the world with clean energy. Our goal is
100% renewable power
, and so far we've committed to purchase nearly 2.5 gigawatts of renewable energy—equivalent to taking more than 1 million cars off the road—making us the largest non-utility purchaser of renewable energy in the world.
But commitment also comes through advocacy. That’s why in 2013, Google became the internet and technology partner of Solar Impulse: to raise awareness for what's possible with clean technology and renewable energy. Everybody could use the plane’s technologies on the ground to reduce our world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life.
A global community formed to join the #FutureIsClean movement, following the progression of the Si2 during its travel around the world on
, and tuning in for the pilot’s conversations with the Mission Control Center in Monaco (MCC). A virtual cockpit, built with the help of Google engineers and platforms, provided the telemetrics of Si2 (altitude, speed, battery level, equipment on board, etc.) and immersed children and supporters in the technical and human challenges that Solar Impulse embarked upon.
Today, we join the rest of the world in congratulating the Solar Impulse team for this outstanding accomplishment. Solar Impulse's pioneering spirit enabled them to push human boundaries and demonstrate that clean technologies can achieve goals we once thought were impossible.
DeepMind AI reduces energy used for cooling Google data centers by 40%
Posted by Rich Evans, Research Engineer, DeepMind and Jim Gao, Data Center Engineer, Google
From smartphone assistants to image recognition and translation, machine learning already helps us in our everyday lives. But it can also help us to tackle some of the world’s most challenging physical problems -- such as energy consumption. Large-scale commercial and industrial systems like data centers consume a lot of energy, and while much has been done to
stem the growth of energy use
, there remains a lot more to do given the world’s increasing need for computing power.
Reducing energy usage has been a major focus for us over the past 10 years: we have built our own
at Google, invented
more efficient ways to cool our data centers
and invested heavily in
green energy sources
, with the goal of being powered 100 percent by renewable energy. Compared to five years ago, we now get around 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy, and we continue to make many improvements each year.
Major breakthroughs, however, are few and far between -- which is why we are excited to share that by applying DeepMind’s machine learning to our own Google data centers, we’ve managed to reduce the amount of energy we use for cooling by up to 40 percent. In any large scale energy-consuming environment, this would be a huge improvement. Given how sophisticated Google’s data centers are already, it’s a phenomenal step forward.
The implications are significant for Google’s data centers, given its potential to greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions overall. This will also help other companies who run on Google’s cloud to
improve their own energy efficiency
. While Google is only one of many data center operators in the world, many are
powered by renewable energy as we are. Every improvement in data center efficiency reduces total emissions into our environment and with technology like DeepMind’s, we can use machine learning to consume less energy and help address one of the biggest challenges of all -- climate change.
One of the primary sources of energy use in the data center environment is cooling. Just as your laptop generates a lot of heat, our data centers -- which contain servers powering Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, etc. -- also generate a lot of heat that must be removed to keep the servers running. This cooling is typically accomplished via large industrial equipment such as pumps, chillers and cooling towers. However, dynamic environments like data centers make it difficult to operate optimally for several reasons:
The equipment, how we operate that equipment, and the environment interact with each other in complex, nonlinear ways. Traditional formula-based engineering and human intuition often do not capture these interactions.
The system cannot adapt quickly to internal or external changes (like the weather). This is because we cannot come up with rules and heuristics for every operating scenario.
Each data center has a unique architecture and environment. A custom-tuned model for one system may not be applicable to another. Therefore, a general intelligence framework is needed to understand the data center’s interactions.
To address this problem, we began applying
two years ago to operate our data centers more efficiently. And over the past few months, DeepMind researchers began working with Google’s data center team to significantly improve the system’s utility. Using a system of neural networks trained on different operating scenarios and parameters within our data centers, we created a more efficient and adaptive framework to understand data center dynamics and optimize efficiency.
We accomplished this by taking the historical data that had already been collected by thousands of sensors within the data center -- data such as temperatures, power, pump speeds, setpoints, etc. -- and using it to train an ensemble of deep neural networks. Since our objective was to improve data center energy efficiency, we trained the neural networks on the average future PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness), which is defined as the ratio of the total building energy usage to the IT energy usage. We then trained two additional ensembles of deep neural networks to predict the future temperature and pressure of the data center over the next hour. The purpose of these predictions is to simulate the recommended actions from the PUE model, to ensure that we do not go beyond any operating constraints.
We tested our model by deploying on a live data center. The graph below shows a typical day of testing, including when we turned the machine learning recommendations on, and when we turned them off.
Google DeepMind graph showing results of machine learning test on power usage effectiveness in Google data centers
Our machine learning system was able to consistently achieve a 40 percent reduction in the amount of energy used for cooling, which equates to a 15 percent reduction in overall PUE overhead after accounting for electrical losses and other non-cooling inefficiencies. It also produced the lowest PUE the site had ever seen.
Because the algorithm is a general-purpose framework to understand complex dynamics, we plan to apply this to other challenges in the data center environment and beyond in the coming months. Possible applications of this technology include improving power plant conversion efficiency (getting more energy from the same unit of input), reducing semiconductor manufacturing energy and water usage, or helping manufacturing facilities increase throughput.
We are planning to roll out this system more broadly and will share how we did it in an upcoming publication, so that other data center and industrial system operators -- and ultimately the environment -- can benefit from this major step forward.
More Nordic wind power for our European data centers
Posted by Marc Oman, EU Energy Lead, Google Global Infrastructure
At the end of last year, we
that we were purchasing a whopping 842 megawatts (MW) of additional renewable energy to power our operations and take us one step closer to running 100 percent of our operations on clean energy. Today, we walked further down that path by agreeing to purchase an additional 236 MW of energy from two new wind farms in Norway and Sweden.
These new Nordic power purchase agreements complement our three other Swedish wind deals and enable us to power even more of our European operations with renewable energy. In total, we now have seven purchase agreements in Europe, totalling more than 500 MW and 18 such deals globally, which means we’ve now purchased nearly 2.5 gigawatts (GW) worldwide – the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road.
As with our other power purchase agreements, we’re buying the entire production of these new wind farms, situated in two great areas for onshore wind in Europe. In Norway, power will be generated by a 50-turbine project near Stavanger, which is set to be completed in late 2017. In Sweden, we’re buying power from a 22-turbine project, near Mariestad and Töreboda, which will be completed by early 2018. In both cases, we’ve signed long-term contracts that give us price certainty and help wind farm developers secure construction financing, in these cases from companies like
One of our key goals is to enable the addition of new renewable energy generation capacity to the grid, rather than drawing power from existing facilities. And thanks to Europe’s increasingly integrated energy market, we’re able to buy wind energy in Norway and Sweden, and consume it elsewhere in Europe.
We’ve known for a long time that
reducing energy usage
and using renewables makes good business sense - we signed our first major power purchase agreement for
114 MW of Iowa wind
in 2010. Others are discovering the benefits of renewables too - in the US alone, companies bought almost
3.5 GW of renewable energy last year
. We’re pleased to have played a part in stimulating the market for corporate renewable energy purchasing and doing our share in the effort to mitigate climate change.
Photo of wind turbine in Sweden by BMJ via Shutterstock
Data Centers Get Fit on Efficiency
Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure
Google’s efforts to build the world’s most efficient data centers are beginning to give back -- in energy. A
just released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) shows that in the last five years, data center efficiency has kept energy usage almost flat despite a huge growth in demand for computing power.
In fact, compared to five years ago, we can now deliver over 3.5 times as much computing power for the same amount of electrical power. That means that even though we’re sending more email, watching more YouTube videos, and saving more digital photos, we’re using the same amount of energy.
Let’s dig into some numbers from the
In 2014, U.S. data centers used 70 billion kWh of energy -- equal to powering more than six million homes for a year.
This is a big shift in energy consumption:
From 2000 to 2005, usage grew 90 percent;
From 2005 to 2010, usage grew 24 percent;
From 2010 to 2014, usage grew 4 percent.
Energy use is expected to increase at the same rate of four percent from 2014 to 2020.
Inside a Google data center
Stabilizing data center energy usage is great, but at Google, we believe we will
go further than simply stopping the growth
. As more IT users transition to public clouds and mobile use increases, total energy usage will likely go down even more. On the server side, ultra-efficient cloud capacity replaces older, less efficient corporate data centers, and on the client side, battery life pressures ensure that mobile devices use much less energy than desktops.
The cloud supports many products at a time, so it can more efficiently distribute resources among many users. That means we can do more with less energy—and businesses can too. In 2013, the Berkeley Lab
we helped support, indicating that moving all office workers in the United States to the cloud could reduce the energy used by information technology by up to 87 percent. That’s equal to powering the city of Los Angeles for one year.
2013 U.S. Case Study: Energy Efficiency Potential of Cloud-based Software (Berkeley Lab)
Efficiency in data center operations like Google’s comes from shifting to super efficient computing, along with improvements in storage, network and infrastructure, employing more advanced cooling strategies, better power management software, and consolidating servers.
We are focused on creating platforms where everyone can benefit. Google builds hyperscale data centers that are designed to maximize infrastructure efficiency. We also began publishing our
in 2008 and have been promoting techniques for more efficient energy use to leaders in the IT industry, starting with the first
data center efficiency summit
in 2009 and our continued advances with
These results show the rapid impact efficiency can have on the industry and the persistent opportunity we have to reduce energy use while creating a more powerful web.
Innovating for a Cleaner Energy Future
Energy ministers from around the globe visited the Bay Area this week for their first meeting following the signing of historic
climate change agreements
in France last year. The focus of the annual gathering for the seventh
Clean Energy Ministerial
, known as CEM7, was to discuss how to achieve the goals set in the Paris climate change deal as well as see some of the innovations coming out of Silicon Valley to tackle the issue head on.
A number of ministers embarked on a fact finding mission that included Google where they came to learn at first hand about our approach and commitment to clean energy and the climate.
Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure
told the group that renewable energy is critical for businesses like ours -- from powering our data centers to our products and services.
“ Having pioneered some of the first corporate renewable power purchasing back in 2010-2011, we’re excited to see that this is becoming business-as-usual for companies everywhere. And at Google we continue to be committed to 100% renewable energy because this makes good business sense and is the right thing to do for the planet and for our users.”
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz who led the visit to Google was joined by ministers and officials from countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Chile, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.
The group got the opportunity to see at first hand a number of projects aimed at everything from helping people make smart choices about
to how we power our
with renewable energy, and from advancing new approaches to
to helping consumers
save energy in the home
and the benefits of
self driving cars
Self-driving cars could reduce the energy intensity per vehicle through a combination of more efficient vehicle designs, driving behaviors, routing, power usage, and capabilities for vehicles to drive closer to each other, according to
U.S. Department of Energy, 2014
In an effort to build on this week’s momentum the CEM launched a campaign that will promote solutions that enable more companies to purchase renewable power. As part of this effort, Google has agreed later this year to host national governments, renewable energy buyers and suppliers, NGOs, and other interested groups as they look for ways to further unlock corporate renewable energy demand in CEM countries.
Mars Hanna, Global Energy Policy and Strategy
Laying the Foundation for Renewable Energy Certification Programs in Asia
At Google, we’ve made a
long term commitment
to power 100% of our operations with renewable energy. To that end, we’ve
purchased more than 2 gigawatts of renewable energy
to date, making us the world’s largest non-utility purchaser of renewables.
– including our facilities in
that help us provide people in Asia with faster, more reliable access to our tools and services – make up the majority of our electricity consumption. We are
working to power all of our data centers around the world with renewable energy
, but one of the challenges we face in Asia is that effective renewable energy certification programs simply aren’t available.
To help address this, we’re announcing today that we’re providing seed funding to the
Center for Resource Solutions
(CRS) to begin laying the groundwork to establish such programs across Asia, starting in Taiwan. They have over 20 years of experience developing and operating renewable energy certification programs.
These kinds of programs are key in helping companies like Google actually know that the power we are buying comes from a renewable source. They work by “tagging” each MWh of energy generated from a source like wind or solar as renewable, which creates a renewable energy certificate (“REC”). This is especially important to us in Taiwan, where we are actively looking to purchase renewable energy for our data center.
from CRS explains how this works for some customers. In Google’s case, we buy both the physical power and the RECs associated with that power, providing us with both the financial benefits of renewable energy and the assurance that the electricity we are buying is in fact renewable.
It may not sound like much, but these programs are critical to creating well-functioning voluntary renewable energy markets. For the
dozens of Fortune 100 and Global 100 companies that have renewable energy commitments
, RECs are a critical instrument to ensuring that renewable energy purchasing claims are accurate and verifiable. They have played a key role in enabling companies in the United States to grow their renewable energy purchasing from about 100 MW in 2012 to over
3,000 MW last year
With this support from Google, CRS will begin examining how best to structure these programs across Asia to create robust voluntary renewable energy markets. They will also begin building a coalition of international stakeholders from the public, private, and NGO sectors to drive these efforts forward.
Organizations interested in supporting these efforts may get
more information here.
Posted by Marsden Hanna, Global Energy Policy and Strategy
Google unites with other tech companies to support US Clean Power Plan.
Today Google, along with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, filed a legal brief with the DC Circuit Court supporting the
Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
The CPP aims to accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of electricity and puts an emphasis on renewable energy development and energy efficiency. The plan has been put on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have come together in
to offer our unique view as large consumers of energy. Collectively we used 10 million MWh of electricity last year, including at 50 data centers in 12 states. That means reliable and affordable electricity is integral to the continued growth and operation of all of our businesses and the services we offer to our users everywhere. We are all committed to sourcing our power in a sustainable way, and renewable energy makes good business sense for us all.
At Google, we have been
carbon neutral since 2007
. We have signed contracts to
purchase over 2GW of renewable energy
-- equivalent to taking nearly one million cars off the road -- making us the largest non-utility renewable energy purchaser in the world. Just last year we signed the
largest and most diverse purchase of renewable energy
made by a non-utility company to power our data centers. The deal covers a series of new wind and solar projects around the world and takes us one step closer to our goal of powering 100% of our operations with clean energy. Above and beyond our own power purchases, we have also invested
more than $2.5 billion in 22 other renewable projects
around the world.
These efforts underline the seriousness of our
commitment to renewables
and we believe the CPP is an important step in the transition to a cleaner energy future. The message from our companies today is clear -- we can meet the world’s future energy challenges in a way that drives innovation and growth while tackling climate change.
Posted by Michael Terrell, Principal, Energy and Global Infrastructure.
And the winner of the $1 Million Little Box Challenge is…CE+T Power’s Red Electrical Devils
In July 2014, Google and the
launched the $1 Million
Little Box Challenge
, an open competition to design and build a small kW-scale inverter with a power density greater than 50 Watts per cubic inch while meeting a number of other specifications related to efficiency, electrical noise and thermal performance. Over 2,000 teams from across the world registered for the competition and more than 80 proposals qualified for review by
IEEE Power Electronics Society
and Google. In October 2015,
18 finalists were selected
to bring their inverters to the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(NREL) for testing.
Today, Google and the IEEE are proud to announce that the grand prize winner of the $1 Million Little Box Challenge is
’s Red Electrical Devils. The Red Electrical Devils (named after
Belgium’s national soccer team
) were declared the winner by a consensus of judges from Google, IEEE Power Electronics Society and NREL. Honorable mentions go to teams from
Virginia Tech’s Future Energy Electronics Center
[CE+T Power’s Red Electrical Devils receive $1 Million Little Box Challenge Prize]
Schneider, Virginia Tech and The Red Electrical Devils all built 2kW inverters that passed
100 hours of testing at NREL
, adhered to the technical specifications of the competition, and were recognized today in a ceremony at the
ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit
in Washington, DC. Among the 3 finalists, the Red Electric Devils’ inverter had the highest power density and smallest volume.
Impressively, the winning team exceeded the power density goal for the competition by a factor of 3,
which is 10 times more compact than commercially available inverters!
When we initially brainstormed technical targets for the Little Box Challenge, some of us at Google didn’t think such audacious goals could be achieved. Three teams from around the world proved decisively that it could be done.
Our takeaway: Establish a worthy goal and smart people will exceed it!
Congratulations again to CE+T Power’s Red Electrical Devils, Schneider Electric and Virginia Tech’s Future Energy Electronics and sincere thanks to our collaborators at IEEE and NREL. The finalist’s technical approach documents will be posted on the
Little Box Challenge website
until December 31, 2017. We hope this helps advance the state of the art and innovation in kW-scale inverters.
Posted by Ross Koningstein, Engineering Director Emeritus, Google Research
Understanding Our Goal: What it Means to be Powered by 100% Renewable Energy
Big dreams lead to big steps and that couldn’t be more true at Google. We’ve made a commitment to power our operations with 100% renewable energy and to date we’ve made great strides towards that goal. Last month we announced
842 MW of new renewable energy purchases in the US, Sweden, and Chile
which boosts our overall purchasing to over 2 GW of renewable energy capacity. This has the same carbon impact as taking nearly 1 million cars off the road and helps us get closer to our 100% goal.
But what does it really mean to be 100% “powered by renewables”? Fundamentally we mean this:
Google purchases, on an annual basis, the same volume (MWh) of renewable energy as the volume of MWh of energy that we consume for our operations.
To unpack what this means let’s start with some basics of the electricity system itself.
We know that electricity generated in one spot cannot be physically directed to a specific user over the electricity grid any more than a cup of water dumped into a river could be directed to a particular runoff stream. Once you put electricity on the grid, it becomes part of the pool of energy within that grid system and flows where physics dictates. There is no way to track if “the energy from wind farm X is going to supply data center Y.”
Given that you can’t tell electrons where to go, how do you “use” renewable energy? One solution is to not use the grid at all, for example by installing renewable generation adjacent to a power-consuming facility “behind the meter”. But this doesn’t usually make economic or practical sense for large facilities like data centers. Instead, large renewable energy projects should be developed where they are most productive and cost-effective - which is usually miles away from where our data centers are best located.
Further, wind and solar resources provide power only when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining but Google’s data centers operate 24x7. If we wanted to power our data centers from adjacently-sited wind or solar and operate disconnected from the rest of the grid, Google’s products would be offline whenever renewable resources aren’t producing energy. Grid-scale energy storage resources (for example very, very large batteries) could solve this problem, but storage technology at the scale we would need is far from cost-effective today.
Figure 1: Indicative hourly profiles for energy consumption from a data center and energy production from wind and solar resources. Note that these are profiles are purely indicative and do not represent specific data center or renewable generation facilities.
As we move towards a 24/7 zero-carbon electricity world we will need to remain connected to the electric grid to allow people to access their Gmail when they want, upload YouTube videos at all hours of the day, and collaborate on docs and spreadsheets with colleagues on the other side of the world.
Indeed, there are tangible benefits to using the grid, such as helping to manage the variability of renewables. For example, our Iowa utility, MidAmerican Energy, has a portfolio of energy generation that is comprised of 40% wind and takes advantage of a large regional network to manage any variability in its system or in an individual wind resource. Similarly, in Europe, the energy provider for our Finland data center purchases renewable energy in Sweden and uses the Nordpool regional electricity grid to manage variability and deliver us consistent 24x7 power.
These are the criteria we strive to meet whenever we purchase renewable energy:
We want our efforts to result in new renewable energy projects, not reshuffling the output from existing projects. For example,
Google committing to buy the entire output of a 72 MW wind farm in Northern Sweden
provided enough revenue security to wind developer O2 to be able to secure financing from German insurance firm Allianz to construct the project. This arrangement brought additional renewable energy onto the grid as a direct result of Google’s long-term commitment.
Bundled physical energy and its “renewable certification”.
We purchase both the physical renewable power and the corresponding certification of its renewable source -
in the United States and
in Europe - which represents the “green-ness” of the power (a detailed explanation of this is
). Many companies simply buy RECs or GOOs from existing projects on the open market, unbundled from the physical power. We set a high bar at Google and always seek to purchase these together.
Where possible we look for renewable projects close to where our data centers are based to maximize physical proximity of renewable supply and consumption. For example we purchase all wind energy generated by
NextEra Energy Resources’ 100.8 MW Minco II facility in Oklahoma
, which is within the same grid area as our
data center in Pryor, Oklahoma.
As we grow we may find ourselves temporarily oversupplied in some regions and undersupplied in others (where access to renewables is currently more limited). We will also be drawing power from the grid to meet our 24/7 power supply needs, which means being dependent on the local grid mix even if portions of it are non-renewable -- although as explained above, we will have separately purchased enough MWh of renewable generation to “cover” this non-renewable portion.
Over the long term, we know that to be serious about solving climate change and reaching 100% renewable, we will need to do more. To that end we are supporting policy and market reforms including
effective design and rollout of the Clean Power Plan
creation of pan-European electricity grids
, working on new technologies like
, and conducting
in-depth research on data center design to maximize energy efficiency.
And we’re looking for opportunities to repurpose traditional electricity infrastructure as we did with our
renewable-powered data center on the site of a former coal plant in Alabama
Here’s to dreaming big!
Posted by Gary Demasi, Director, Data Center Energy & Location Strategy
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