Google Reveals Energy Usage, Carbon Footprint
September 9, 2011

Google Reveals Energy Usage, Carbon Footprint


For the first time, tech giant Google has revealed what the New York Times refers to as one of their "most closely guarded secrets"--the amount of power used by their global facilities.

According to James Glantz of the newspaper, the company reported Thursday that "its data centers continuously drew almost 260 million run Google searches, YouTube views, Gmail messaging and display ads on all those services around the world."

Furthermore, Martin LaMonica added that the company said "that it consumes 2.26 kilowatt-hours per user per year, about the same amount of energy as running a 60-watt lightbulb for three hours."

To put things in perspective, Glantz says that Google's continuous power usage is approximately one-quarter that of a nuclear power plant.

"Google says that it emits 1.5m tons of carbon annually but claims that its data centers consume 50% less energy than the industry average," Duncan Clark wrote on Thursday. "The emissions are slightly higher than the country of Laos in south-east Asia and equivalent to the UN's operational footprint."

The release of the information coincided with the announcement that the company was adding a new section, entitled "The Big Picture," to their Google Green website. In a post to the company's official blog, Urs Hoelzle, Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure, will include "numbers on our annual energy use and carbon footprint."

"We´ve worked hard to reduce the amount of energy our services use," Hoelzle said. "For the last decade, energy use has been an obsession. We've designed and built some of the most efficient servers and data centers in the world--using half the electricity of a typical data center. Our newest facility in Hamina, Finland, opening this weekend, uses a unique seawater cooling system that requires very little electricity."

"Whenever possible, we use renewable energy," he added. "We have a large solar panel installation at our Mountain View campus, and we´ve purchased the output of two wind farms to power our data centers. For the greenhouse gas emissions we can´t eliminate, we purchase high-quality carbon offsets“¦ But we´re not stopping there."

Hoelzle noted that the company has pledged to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects and companies. He claims that in doing so, they are helping to create 1.7 GW of renewable power, approximately the amount needed to power 350,000 homes.

"Google uses about half the power of the biggest power consumers such as oil companies, automakers and steel companies," AP Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey wrote in a September 8 article.

Rick Needham, the Director of Green Business Operations at Google, told Fahey that the company planned to continue to release the information, so that the public can track their progress. "It holds our own feet to the fire," he told the AP reporter.


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