Sustainable Energy

Google says it’s the biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy on the planet

Key Points
  • Google now has contracts to buy 3 gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects.
  • The search giant says it will carry on signing contracts to purchase more renewable energy.
Yichuan Cao | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Google's total purchase of energy from renewable sources in 2017 was greater than the electricity used by its global operations, the tech giant has said. This follows on from a 2016 announcement that the business was on target to buy enough renewable energy to "match" electricity usage.

In a blog post Wednesday, Google's Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, described what the business meant by "matching." Put simply, for every kilowatt hour of electricity the company used in 2017, it bought a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a solar or wind farm built specifically for Google.

Hölzle said that Google now had contracts to buy 3 gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects, and that no corporate purchaser was buying more renewable energy than Google. Renewable energy contracts for Google had resulted in more than $3 billion in new capital investment across the globe, he said.

"We say that we "matched" our energy usage because it's not yet possible to "power" a company of our scale by 100 percent renewable energy," Hölzle explained.

"It's true that for every kilowatt-hour of energy we consume, we add a matching kilowatt-hour of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere," he added. "But that renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we're running our data centers and offices."

What was important to Google, he said, was that it was adding "new clean energy sources to the electrical system" and buying renewable energy in the same volume that it was consuming both globally and on a yearly basis.

Looking forward, Hölzle said that Google would carry on signing more contracts to buy renewable energy.

The search giant is among a number of technology businesses looking to "green" their operations with big, ambitious projects. Last October, for instance, Amazon announced that its biggest wind farm to date was operational.

The business said that Amazon Wind Farm Texas would add over 1 million megawatt hours of clean energy to the grid annually. The facility, which is located in Scurry County, has over 100 turbines, each standing more than 300-feet tall and with a rotor diameter over double the wingspan of a Boeing 787.