Google.com is a website that many people have set to their homepage, and has become the standard in internet search engines for quite some time now. The corporation has expanded to providing maps, email, and shopping tools online. Interestingly, they have put research efforts toward futuristic glasses, cars that drive themselves, and (less known) renewable energy. In this blog I comment (without trying to plug the company) on how Google is being responsible with their energy requirements and why I think they are serving as a model for companies in the future.
Few people think about the energy intensity of a Google search. For me, it’s tempting to lazily have Google give me the conversion from inches to millimeters when working on an engineering homework problem. This one search requires 0.0003 kWh of electricity, resulting in roughly 0.2g of CO2 . Although this doesn’t seem like a lot, using Google has become second nature to a large portion of the population, to the point where their 2010 emissions consisted of 1,449,825 tonnes of CO2e. For scale, this is close to the emissions of Laos or the island of Fiji during the same year .
So Google has emissions comparable to a small country, what are they doing about it? Well, it’s clear that the company cares about their environmental impact as they provide detailed information on their measures to increase efficiency in their data centers, down to how they selected the color of the LED lights on their servers . Google also seems to be one of the hubs for data generation as they provide tools like Google trends, showing the amount of internet popularity of a given topic . They are also concerned with generating their own data, especially in how much energy they consume. Figure 1 shows an example of this data, displaying their Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) the last 5 years.Google is doing more than plotting their energy usage, though. To date, the company has invested over a billion dollars toward wind and solar energy projects, such as the Spinning Spur Wind Farm in West Texas and large scale photovoltaic plants in California . The intention of these projects is somewhat mind blowing – they are not only doing this to provide power to their data centers, they are doing it purely to promote the expansion of renewable energy. This intention is clear with the $75 million investment to create a Clean Power Finance fund that helps homeowners install PV panels and the $280 million to support financing for residential solar projects through a SolarCity fund . Now, Google is pressuring others to help out their crusade to a cleaner future as they have sent a formal request to utilities asking to make renewable energy options available to them and other energy consumers the utility provides for . As I am writing this, it’s hard to n ot feel like I’m plugging Google’s name. However, Google has clearly given conscious thought to their environmental impact and I guess I can only say good things about a company whose slogan is “Don’t Be Evil” . It goes without saying that we can only hope other companies will follow in Google’s footsteps toward providing services in a clean, efficient manner.