Google’s new wind energy deal shows real corporate leadership

Today though, we can feel good about at least one company’s actions: Google announced that it is purchasing 48 megawatts of clean, renewable wind power for its data centre in Oklahoma, USA.

That’s enough clean energy to power a small city!

When’s the last time you felt really good about something a corporation has done for the environment?

If you’re like me, it’s probably not recently. Big companies usually grace Greenpeace’s blog for destroying the environment.

Google’s announcement shows what the most forward-thinking, successful companies can accomplish when they are serious about powering their operations with clean energy.

To power its Oklahoma data centre – one of the facilities responsible for bringing you your Gmail, Docs, and Google search results – Google faced a local electricity mix of over 50% coal power. But as one of the major electricity customer in the state, Google worked with the local utility to secure a new supply of renewable wind energy.

As Google powers more of its data centre fleet with clean energy, it sends a signal to other Internet companies and electric utilities around the world that renewable energy is not only possible, but is simply smart business in the 21st-century economy.

A wind farm in Iowa. © Karuna Ang / Greenpeace

As highlighted in this week’s New York Times series “The Cloud Factories“, the energy demand of our Internet use does have real-world impacts, but Google has shown that those impacts can be positive, not negative, if they bring us more clean energy.

The Internet can be the engine that drives our economies toward a true clean energy future if other companies follow Google’s leadership.

Unfortunately, many technology companies are falling into the same old 20th-century mold of being part of the environmental problem. One of Google’s main competitors in the search, email and cloud arenas is Microsoft, and Google’s announcement today only sharpens the contrast between the two companies’ energy use.

While both Google and Microsoft have committed to being “carbon neutral,” unlike Google, Microsoft has yet to significantly invest in clean energy, instead continuing to build data centres attached to dirty sources of electricity like coal and nuclear power. While Google is doing something to clean up its energy supply, Microsoft has sought to mask its dirty energy supply with carbon offsets and renewable energy credits. If Microsoft wants environmentally-minded customers to choose Bing, Outlook and its Microsoft Office cloud, it needs to follow Google’s lead and invest in renewable energy.

Add your name to the hundreds of thousands of people who are calling for Microsoft and other technology leaders to follow Google’s lead, so we can know that our Internet use is part of our energy solution, not the problem, and have more days like today where we feel good about a company doing the right thing.

Blog post by: David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a media officer for Greenpeace’s work to push technology companies to lead the shift to a prosperous clean energy economy.