How has Google Managed to be a Carbon Neutral Company since 2007?
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Carbon Neutral Company

How has Google Managed to be a Carbon Neutral Company since 2007?

“…the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero,” said Urs Hoelzle, Senior Vice President of Google’s Technical Infrastructure Department.

Despite the fact that Google’s data centers around the world, which run the services for Gmail, YouTube and Google Search, continuously draw almost 260 million watts (which, according to The New York Times, is roughly equivalent to a quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant), Google announced on their official blog site yesterday that they’ve been a completely carbon neutral company.

How is this possible ? Don’t the growing number of “cloud” computing centres and data centres mean a huge energy challenge for the earth ?

A Beyond-Zero Carbon Footprint…

How ?

“The Big Picture” by Google explains being “beyond-zero carbon” by saying that “Our efforts in efficiency, buying clean energy, and purchasing offsets bring our carbon footprint down to zero. We're going beyond carbon neutral by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects that create far more renewable energy for the world than we consume as a company.”

Google has increasingly been investing in smart energy, green initiatives, with the more recent ones in this area being its $168 million investment in the Ivanpah solar power tower plant followed by $280 million investment towards creating the largest residential solar financing fund in the United States in conjunction with SolarCity.

Alongwith having invested in utility-scale projects, built to contribute significant amounts of renewable energy to today’s electricity grid, Google has also invested in early-stage companies such as Makani Power and Potter Drilling, which are working towards developing innovative new technologies to in the wind and geothermal energy sectors respectively.

According to figures put forth by Google, the search engine giant has to date invested more than $780 million in the renewable energy sector towards projects that are capable of generating 1.7 GW of power and electricity, which Google estimates as being equivalent to the amount of energy used by 350,000 homes.

The company has also made public the fact that it has put in place a number of special arrangements to buy electricity from wind farms, as a result of which an estimated 25 percent of Google’s 2010 energy needs were reportedly supplied by renewable fuels. The company estimates that this figure will reach 30 percent in 2011.

The Race to “Who’s Greener”

And because of Google’s numerous initiatives towards being greener, including the fact that Google's data centers use "half the electricity of a typical data center," it is much smarter to choose Google search and mail services than those hosted by any other server says Google.

In a document released by Google, titled “Google’s Green Computing: Efficiency at Scale”, the company substantiates this claim by saying that, “For a small office of 50 people, choosing Gmail over a locally hosted server can mean an annual per-user power savings of up to 170 kWh and a carbon footprint reduction of up to 100 kg of CO2”

For a more comprehensive understanding of which Google services take up how much energy, figures put forth by the company suggest that about 12.5 million watts of Google’s 260-million-watt total is accounted for by the company’s primary service, i.e., searches, while YouTube accounts for a very small amount.

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