Google invests in green

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By Rebekah Williams

Tech giant invests over $1 billion into renewable energy sources

Google, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., is known as the world’s most popular search engine.

Every time a search is entered into Google, it hits a server, is processed and gets sent back. All of this happens within microseconds.

Google averaged over 5.9 billion searches each day, and over 2.1 trillion a year in 2013.

Each search requires significant amounts of energy. From its multiple centers worldwide, Google consumes 260 million watts of power. This is one quarter of the power produced by a nuclear power plant. This amount of energy could continually power 200,000 households.

According to Google, their energy consumption makes the world a greener place. It requires  less energy to conduct a Google search than it does to drive to a library, or even to print the books that sit in a library.

However, in just the last quarter, Google spent $2.25 billion on data centers and its general infrastructure.

While companies like Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are also major consumers of energy, Google’s consumption is the most aggressive.

Thus, as one of the riskiest business ventures they have yet to undertake, Google recently invested over $1 billion into the research and development of clean energy sources.

While tree huggers rejoice over this investment, it is important to note that this was not a philanthropic expenditure for Google.

Google’s director of energy and sustainability Rick Needham said, “The fact is that all of these things, procuring power for ourselves, investing in power plants, renewable power plants, they all make business sense, they make sense for us as a company to do. We rely on power for our business.”

This money is being channeled toward various types of renewable energy, frequently referred to as  “green energy,”     including solar thermal technology, photovoltaic technology and wind power.

Solar thermal technology concentrates light from the sun to create heat. That heat then runs a heat engine, producing electricity. This form of technology has the ability to store energy.

Photovoltaic (PV) technology directly converts the sun’s light into electricity. However, it is only effective during daylight hours and cannot store energy.

Wind power converts wind energy to electricity through the use of wind turbines.

Groups of turbines in one location, called wind farms, have been set up for the purpose of harnessing increased electrical power.

In total, Google has financed 15 wind and solar investments, producing two gigawatts of power.

This power generaton is equivalent to the power produced by the Hoover Dam.

Google is the only top technical company using solar and wind energy.

Google has invested $100 million into Shepherd’s Flat, an Oregon wind farm.

This makes Shepherd’s Flat the world’s largest wind farm, with a capacity of 845 megawatts.

In Ivanpah, Calif. on the California-Nevada line, $168 million has been invested in 347,000 sun-facing mirrors to produce 392 megawatts of thermal-power electricity.

This is capable of powering over 140,000 California homes.

Other solar power investments include $280 million for Solar City, $75 million to Clean Power Finance and $94 million to Recurrent Energy.

In addition, Google is partnering with the large private equity firm, KKR & Co. L.P., on a venture deemed “SunTap” in order to invest in U.S. solar projects.

In 2010, 25 percent of Google operations were powered by green energy. Currently, that number is up to about 34 percent.

“Our goal is to be 100 percent renewably powered,” Needham said.

This seems like the ideal time to invest, since the cost of environmentally clean energy has significantly decreased in the past year.

Google is gaining a lot of positive press for their green initiatives.

While they themselves are certainly profiting from this investment, the environmental standard has also been set for other large data companies as well.

Google may have provided exactly the momentum that the green movement has been trying to harness.

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