Google Makes New Clean Energy Purchases After Abandoning R&D Efforts

by Liza Farr

During the last few years, Google has had a roller coaster ride with clean energy. In 2007, they started their RERomm, Dec 4, 2014). In 2011, however, Google stopped this program completely, with the reasoning that they determined this effort would not actually reverse climate change, or make new renewable energy cheaper than existing coal. Critics argued that both of these goals are widely considered impossible, and chastised the company for ending the R&D program. Likely, Google realized with plummeting global renewable energy prices, there was more money to be made in renewable energy deployment than in research and development (Romm, Dec 4, 2014).

By 2014, Google was powered 34 percent by renewable energy, and rising (Berniker, Feb 16, 2014). Many Silicon Valley tech companies have invested heavily in renewable energy, partly due to their high costs on data centers and infrastructure spending, and partly to create an image that they are environmentally and cost sensitive (Berniker, Feb 16, 2014). In January of 2015, Google continued to ramp up their purchasing of renewable energy. The company backed a 104 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Utah, and signed a 1,040 MW wind energy contract for their $600 million data center in the Netherlands, powered entirely by renewable energy. Most prominently, this year Google also signed a long-term power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy Resources for the energy generated by the iconic Altamont Pass wind farm (Hill, Feb 13, 2015). Company officials say they will be using this energy to power their north bayshore campus in Mountain View, which makes the first time they will be using renewable energy to power one of their offices. The new wind turbines will generate 43 MW of clean energy, and Google plans to purchase 24 new turbines for the farm in order to generate as much power as the campus uses in a year, making it completely clean powered. Altamont Pass was created in the 1980s as the testing site for large scale wind power in the United States, making it an iconic and important purchase for Google (Hill, Feb 13, 2015). Undoubtedly Google is making the statement that they will be leading the Silicon Valley pack in their green energy investment and use, appealing to the many environmentalists across the nation, and appealing to their shareholders who like to see the company cutting costs where possible. Research and development efforts are still necessary to bring clean energy costs down even further, but clean energy companies and environmentalists alike are still happy to see the massive purchases the company is making to offset their similarly massive energy use and carbon footprint.

Berniker, Mark. “Google makes huge investment in clean energy.” Feb 16, 2014. []

Hill, Joshua S. “Google signs on to repower iconic bay area wind farm.” Feb 13, 2015. []

Romm, Joe. “The strange thing about Google’s decision to stop renewable energy research.” Dec 4, 2014. []



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