Huge Solar Farms to ‘Match’ Google Data Center Energy Use in Southeast
As the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, Google has been leading the charge by tech giants to make their data center energy use carbon-neutral. Those efforts have resulted in a massive amount of new renewable generation capacity to be built in the US and Europe, and at least one project in South America.
Google data center under construction in Clarksville, Tennessee
“Last year, we shared our long-term objective to source carbon-free electricity around the clock for each of our data centers,” Amanda Corio, Google’s senior lead for energy and infrastructure, wrote in a blog post announcing the latest solar projects. “These new solar projects will bring us substantially closer to that goal in the Southeastern US.”
In a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the company has agreed to buy the two new solar farm’s entire output. It didn’t say where the remaining power in the 413MW renewable energy deal would come from. Each of the solar farms described in the blog post is expected to have generation capacity of about 150MW.
Since it’s not always possible to power a data center directly with renewable energy generated by a specific wind or solar farm, Google’s focus has been on “matching” its energy consumption with renewables. That means that it buys a kilowatt hour of energy from a renewable source built specifically for Google for every kilowatt hour of energy consumed by its data centers, Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior VP of technical infrastructure, explained in a blog post last year:
We say that we “matched” our energy usage because it’s not yet possible to “power” a company of our scale by 100 percent renewable energy. It’s true that for every kilowatt-hour of energy we consume, we add a matching kilowatt-hour of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere. But that renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we’re running our data centers and offices. What’s important to us is that we are adding new clean energy sources to the electrical system, and that we’re buying that renewable energy in the same amount as what we’re consuming, globally and on an annual basis.
The new solar projects in Hollywood, Alabama, and Yum Yum, Tennessee, will be built by NextEra Energy Resources and Invenergy, which partner with TVA. By buying their output, Google expects to match the energy consumption of its upcoming data centers in the region with renewables “from day one.”