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When Envirotech Meets Online Tech - Google Goes Renewable

Dec 13 2016 Comments 0

Internet search engine giants Google have announced that their offices and data centres will be powered completely by renewable means from next year. The company has signalled that the workplaces of all 60,000 of its staff across the globe will be 100% renewable from next year, providing a shining example for other businesses to follow.

Leading the way

In 2012, Google made the bold claim that it would be transitioning to all renewable energy sources imminently. True to its word, the company has been thriving in the renewable energy economy ever since and is already the biggest corporate buyer of renewables in the world, with 44% of its energy consumption being powered by solar and wind energy in 2015.

That year, Google purchased 5.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable energy, which is not far off the 7.6TWh which all of the solar panels in the UK produce. In the event, the majority of this energy did not come from solar but wind power, since this represents the best return on investment in the renewable sector.

Now it’s aiming to go 100% renewable by snapping up further contracts with wind and solar farms, as well as branching out into other technologies such as nuclear, biomass and hydro. Though solar and wind have proven to be cheaper up until this point, they are also intermittent and somewhat unreliable – on overcast or calm days, the energy output drops off.

“Not averse to nuclear”

In a bid to sustain their all-renewable energy capacity and reduce their carbon footprint, Google have indicated they will consider forms of energy generation which are not as unreliable as wind and solar, but which remain sustainable and eco-friendly.

“We want to do contracts with forms of renewable power that are more baseload-like, so low-impact hydro; it could be biomass if the fuel source is sustainable, it could be nuclear, God forbid, we’re not averse,” explained Marc Oman, lead energy officer at Google EU. “We’re looking at all forms of low-carbon generation.”

However, he did confide that there remained concerns over the safety of nuclear, as well as its cost-effectiveness in comparison to other forms of renewable energy.

“We don’t want to rule out signing a nuclear contract if it meets our goals of low price, safety, additionality and in a sufficiently close grid, we don’t want to rule that out, but today we can’t positively say there are nuclear projects out there that meet this criteria,” he added.

Tech companies should follow suit

The explosion of the cybercentric world and huge advances in technology mean that tech companies are now responsible for 2% of all greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions across the planet, which is comparable to those expelled by aeroplanes.

As such, Google’s decision to go 100% renewable has been seen as leading by example from commentators and environmentalists, who believe that other big online entities should follow suit.

“By transitioning global operations to run entirely on renewable energy, Google is charting a course for other corporations, institutions, cities and communities to take bold action that will create jobs, save money, and protect families from dangerous fossil fuel pollution,” said Jodie van Horn, an environmental campaigner for the Sierra Club.  

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