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Google has been a carbon neutral company for seven years, and every year around this time we calculate our carbon footprint so we can make sure to offset it completely. Today we’ve updated the Google Green website with our 2013 carbon footprint data so you can explore it for yourself.

For 2013, we reported a carbon footprint of 1.77 million metric tons to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Our gross carbon footprint was up slightly from 2012, but our data center efficiency initiatives, renewable energy purchases and high-quality carbon offset purchases brought our footprint back down to zero. We’re proud to report that our carbon intensity dropped for the fifth year in a row, down to 31.8 metric tons of CO2 / million dollars of revenue, a drop of 3.6% from 2012.

Last year when we posted our 2012 update we calculated that serving an active Google user for one month is like driving a car one mile. We updated our numbers and this calculation still holds true. To serve that user, Google emits about 8 grams of CO2 per day.

This annual update also provides a nice opportunity to look back on the steps we’ve taken over the past year as we’ve worked to reduce our environmental impact:
  • Data centers: We addressed efficiency, industry challenges and how to solve them at our “How Green is the Internet” summit in 2013. Being the most efficient is important to us, especially at our data centers where we use 50% of the energy of a typical data center.
  • Environmental certifications: We’re the first major Internet company in the U.S. to get multi-site ISO 50001 Energy Management System certification, for 9 data centers in the US and EU (so far).
  • Renewable energy: To date, we’ve signed long term contracts for over a gigawatt of renewable energy for our data centers and facilities. We have stayed true to our rigorous method for purchasing clean energy. We look for renewables when evaluating new locations and we factor an internal carbon price into our financial calculations.
  • Renewable energy tariff: We use renewable energy when we can, but because of some utilities’ rules, we don’t always have a choice. Last year we worked with Duke Energy, a major utility, to develop a “green source rider.” This gives the option for Google and other companies like us to purchase renewable energy directly from Duke. Google was the first customer to request and successfully receive this. We have detailed our approach to help others in the industry to do it too.
  • Carbon offsets: To bring our footprint to zero, we invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions at sources outside of Google. We're very picky to make sure that our investments have a positive impact - one that wouldn’t have happened without us.
  • Investments: We’ve also been hard at work bringing more clean energy to everyone. We’ve signed agreements to provide $1.5 billion in funding to renewable energy projects, like Ivanpah, which was named Plant of the Year for its innovative solar power tower technology. With our investments, we’re helping energize 2.5 GW of renewable energy across the world. That’s enough to power 500,000 homes and far more energy than we use as a company.

Overall, 35% of our energy for our operations—that includes offices, all of our data centers and other infrastructure—came from renewable sources last year. That’s an increase from the previous year, which is no mean feat given how quickly we’re growing as a company. To keep up with that growth, we’re continuing to sign new long-term energy contracts, like our recent 407 MW agreement with MidAmerican Energy. As these projects come online, the amount of energy we get from renewable sources will continue to grow.

Posted by Kelsey Vandermeulen, Program Manager, Carbon Offsets

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(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

We recently finalized an investment that will put a 82MW solar power plant on top of an old oil and gas field in Kern County, Calif. The new deal with SunEdison will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

Our investment in the Regulus solar project will give new life to a long-valued piece of land, and there's something a little poetic about creating a renewable resource on land that once creaked with oil wells. Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves. The land sat for some time and today we’re ready to spiff things up. With the help of our $145 million equity commitment, SunEdison is draping it in high-tech, sleek panels that collect energy from the sun, while bringing 650 jobs to the Kern County area and 82MW of clean energy to the grid.
Like many states, California has a goal of increasing the amount of energy procured from renewable sources. This project helps support that quest and marks 17 renewable energy investments for Google since 2010, including five here in the Golden State.

We’re continually looking for newer, bigger and better projects that help us create a clean energy future. The more than $1.5 billion we’ve brought to these projects to date not only helps provide renewable energy to the grid and to the public, but as they perform, they allow us to invest in more renewable energy projects. This cycle makes financial sense for Google and our partners while supporting construction jobs in local communities and clean energy for the planet we share.

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And the Plant of the Year Award goes to…

...Ivanpah!

We are thrilled to share the news that Ivanpah has been selected as Power Magazine’s Plant of the Year for 2014.

Why? We’ve been investing in clean energy for years. But for this story, we have to go back to 2008. That year we invested $10 million in startup company BrightSource. We believed in their solar power technology. As they continued to develop, we subsequently invested another $168 million into their first utility-scale solar project, Ivanpah.

We often talk about projects that make leaps of 10x, but Ivanpah was almost 20x the size of the largest solar power tower plants at the time. That made Ivanpah perfect for the kind of projects we look for - large in scale, producing 377MW of clean solar power for California, and innovative in design, demonstrating the potential of advanced solar thermal power.

We’ve made it a goal to invest in innovative renewable energy projects that could dramatically impact the energy landscape and bring more clean power to not only our company, but the world. For Ivanpah, we put our money where our mouth is, delivering on our commitment to renewables in a big way.

We’re proud to have supported our partners, NRG, Brightsource and Bechtel in the construction of an innovative power plant that will provide decades of clean, renewable energy to California.

Posted by Joel Conkling, Principal, Google Energy
The sun sets over Ivanpah heliostats with towers in the distance

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(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

These days, if you’re an engineer, inventor or just a tinkerer with a garage, you don’t have to look far for a juicy opportunity: there are cash prize challenges dedicated to landing on the moon, building a self-driving car, cleaning the oceans, or inventing an extra-clever robot. Today, together with the IEEE, we’re adding one more: shrinking a big box into a little box.

Seriously.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Especially when the big box is a power inverter, a picnic cooler-sized device used to convert the energy that comes from solar, electric vehicles & wind (DC power) into something you can use in your home (AC power). We want to shrink it down to the size of a small laptop, roughly 1/10th of its current size. Put a little more technically, we’re looking for someone to build a kW-scale inverter with a power density greater than 50W per cubic inch. Do it best and we’ll give you a million bucks.


There will be obstacles to overcome (like the conventional wisdom of engineering). But whoever gets it done will help change the future of electricity. A smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. Or allow you to keep the lights on during a blackout via your electric car’s battery. Or enable advances we haven’t even thought of yet.

Either way, we think it’s time to shine a light on the humble inverter, and the potential that lies in making it much, much smaller. Enter at littleboxchallenge.com—we want to know how small you can go.

Posted by Eric Raymond, Google Green Team

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Forget rumbling engines...More electric vehicles quietly hummed across the Googleplex than ever before on May 15th, as more than 600 Googlers participated in our annual electric vehicle test drive event. This year, with help from Plug-In America, we were excited to be the first corporate campus to hold an event as part of the Experience Electric campaign, funded by Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Twelve electric automotive and motorcycle manufacturers invited Googlers to test drive the latest and greatest plug-in cars and motorcycles. By giving our employees the opportunity explore and drive some of these electric cars and motorcycles, we hope some are inspired to switch out the gas pump for a charging cord. Among the models we checked out were:
Our hope is that by getting Googlers to test out new EV technologies, we help propel overall EV-adoption, a goal we vigorously support with a number of campus programs, like our GFleet, an on-site car share service that features EVs or our free on-campus charging for personal electric vehicles. We’ve grown our charging infrastructure to provide Level 2 charging capabilities at more than 750 parking spaces across our Mountain View headquarters and 11 other Google locations. Find out more on the Google Green site.

Posted by Rolf Schreiber, Technical Program Manager, Electric Transportation

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(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with saving energy. For over a decade we’ve been designing and building data centers that use half the energy of a typical data center, and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy use even further. In our pursuit of extreme efficiency, we’ve hit upon a new tool: machine learning. Today we’re releasing a white paper on how we’re using neural networks to optimize data center operations and drive our energy use to new lows.

It all started as a 20 percent project, a Google tradition of carving out time for work that falls outside of one’s official job description. Jim Gao, an engineer on our data center team, is well-acquainted with the operational data we gather daily in the course of running our data centers. We calculate PUE, a measure of energy efficiency, every 30 seconds, and we’re constantly tracking things like total IT load (the amount of energy our servers and networking equipment are using at any time), outside air temperature (which affects how our cooling towers work) and the levels at which we set our mechanical and cooling equipment. Being a smart guy—our affectionate nickname for him is “Boy Genius”—Jim realized that we could be doing more with this data. He studied up on machine learning and started building models to predict—and improve—data center performance.



The mechanical plant at our facility in The Dalles, Ore. The data center team is constantly tracking the performance of the heat exchangers and other mechanical equipment pictured here.

What Jim designed works a lot like other examples of machine learning, like speech recognition: a computer analyzes large amounts of data to recognize patterns and “learn” from them. In a dynamic environment like a data center, it can be difficult for humans to see how all of the variables—IT load, outside air temperature, etc.—interact with each other. One thing computers are good at is seeing the underlying story in the data, so Jim took the information we gather in the course of our daily operations and ran it through a model to help make sense of complex interactions that his team—being mere mortals—may not otherwise have noticed.


A simplified version of what the models do: take a bunch of data, find the hidden interactions, then provide recommendations that optimize for energy efficiency.

After some trial and error, Jim’s models are now 99.6 percent accurate in predicting PUE. This means he can use the models to come up with new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of our operations. For example, a couple months ago we had to take some servers offline for a few days—which would normally make that data center less energy efficient. But we were able to use Jim’s models to change our cooling setup temporarily—reducing the impact of the change on our PUE for that time period. Small tweaks like this, on an ongoing basis, add up to significant savings in both energy and money.


The models can predict PUE with 99.6 percent accuracy.

By pushing the boundaries of data center operations, Jim and his team have opened up a new world of opportunities to improve data center performance and reduce energy consumption. He lays out his approach in the white paper, so other data center operators that dabble in machine learning (or who have a resident genius around who wants to figure it out) can give it a try as well.

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(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Just because Earth Day is over doesn’t mean we’re done doing good things for the planet. Yesterday we announced our biggest renewable energy purchase yet: an agreement with our Iowa utility partner to supply our data center facilities there with up to 407 megawatts of wind energy.

Today, we’re taking another step towards a clean energy future with a major new investment. Together with SunPower Corporation we’re creating a new $250 million fund to help finance the purchase of residential rooftop solar systems—making it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar. Essentially, this is how it works: Using the fund ($100 million from Google and $150 million from SunPower), we buy the solar panel systems. Then we lease them to homeowners at a cost that’s typically lower than their normal electricity bill. So by participating in this program, you don’t just help the environment—you can also save money.

A home sporting SunPower solar panels

SunPower delivers solar to residential, utility and commercial customers and also manufacturers its own solar cells and panels.They’re known for having high-quality, high reliability panels which can generate up to 50 percent more power per unit area, with guaranteed performance and lower degradation over time. That means that you can install fewer solar panels to get the same amount of energy. And SunPower both makes the panels and manages the installation, so the process is seamless.

This is our 16th renewable energy investment and our third residential rooftop solar investment (the others being with Solar City and Clean Power Finance). Overall we’ve invested more than $1 billion in 16 renewable energy projects around the world, and we’re always on the hunt for new opportunities to make more renewable energy available to more people—Earth Day and every day.