Google launched its new carbon-intelligent computing platform, which is designed to shift the electricity demands of its largest data centers to match clean energy supply. Using renewable forecasting data, Google data centers will plan computing tasks that are somewhat flexible (creating new filters for Google photos) for times when renewables are plentiful and affordable. Meanwhile, on-demand services (Google Maps or generating search results) would continue to be powered around the clock. To learn more, read “Google redefines what it means to be ‘100% renewable.’”

Key Takeaways:

  • Hundreds of companies have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, but these commitments are frequently based on annual electricity consumption and don’t take into account what time of day or in what season the energy is generated.
  • Data centers use about 3 percent of all electricity in the country, with energy traffic growing every year. Their energy demands have a consistent baseload, where they run day and night with relatively little fluctuation when compared to residential or commercial electricity consumption.
  • Google’s new platform is looking at data centers’ ability to be flexible in an innovative way — shifting its own computing loads to better match its low-carbon electricity supply.
  • Google is also exploring energy storage to reach around-the-clock carbon-free energy. In January, it entered a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the utility NV Energy that included 250 and 280 megawatts of storage to power a new data center in Nevada.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Data centers use nearly 3 percent of the country’s electricity now, but this figure will continue to grow. As such, there isn’t one simple fix to achieve around-the-clock, 100 percent clean energy goals. As the path is neither simple or straightforward, solutions will include a combination of technologies that change consumption habits and demands and shift when clean energy is available. Some of these options companies can turn to include complementary renewable energy sources, flexible demand and load shifting.

Photo: GreenBiz