Google said that in 2017, it expects to run entirely on renewable energy sources worldwide, which means its investments in wind farms could become the power to serve search engine queries and AdWords paid-search ads.
In 2015, Google consumed 5.7 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity across all of its operations, which is nearly as much electricity as San Francisco used in the same year. Its data centers — the engines of the Internet that power all of our products and services — Search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and Google Cloud — require electricity to run, and they must be up and running when people need them.
The company signed its first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010. Now the company lays claim to become the "world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future," Urs Holzle, SVP of technical infrastructure at Google, writes in a blog post.
The plan to purchase enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit it needs to operate came with a white paper published Tuesday.
This white paper describes Google's path to achieving the 100% renewable energy purchasing goal, along with lessons learned from seven years and 2.6 GW of renewable contracts. It outlines how the company will continue efforts to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
For advertisers concerned about drops in electricity, Google explains in the white paper that the company will remain connected to an electricity grid and will draw power each minute of every day, even when wind and solar facilities located within that grid may not be producing energy.
At times the company will purchase more renewable energy than required to consume to keep its operations up and running, but during the course of a year its total global renewable energy purchases will match up 100% to our global consumption.