Here’s What 100% Renewable Energy Looks Like

by Anna Gretz
April 5, 2018
Sustainability

Google set a goal to hit 100% renewable status… and they nailed it. Here’s what the tech mogul did to reach their goal, and what we think they can do to move up to the next level.

Google: Spending Gs on Renewable Energy Projects

Just this week, Google announced that it’s in the process of purchasing 3 gigawatts of renewable energy output, which would blow away all other corporate renewable energy purchases, and push Google over its 100% renewable energy goal.

Google’s goal wasn’t to generate renewables on-site, or actually run its company directly on solar, but to purchase enough renewable energy to match all of the electricity the company itself would consume over any given year. The goal included all of Google’s offices, including 15 data centers all over the world. Google reps claim that it’s not yet possible to “power” a company of its scale by 100 percent renewable energy, and that adding new clean energy resources was the best way to neutralize its energy usage. Nonetheless, it was an impressive goal, and the way Google fulfilled it was just as impressive.

The renewable energy purchases made by Google in 2017 actually exceeded its electricity consumption.

“Over the course of 2017, across the globe, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity we consumed, we purchased a kilowatt-hour of renewable energy from a wind or solar farm that was built specifically for Google,” said Urs Holzle, the Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure. “This makes us the first public Cloud, and company of our size, to have achieved this feat.”

2017 was the first year that Google hit its mark. In fact, it was the first year it even came close. In 2016, Google only covered 57% of its electricity usage with renewable energy purchases. That’s when the company really ramped up their efforts, signing a record number of contracts for new wind and solar projects that would come online during 2017.

The Race for Renewables

Though other companies have similar goals when it comes to renewable energy, Google far exceeds the efforts of everyone else. Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have all exceeded Google’s solar investment, but the company’s wind projects are almost 3 times greater than the closest corporate competitor (Amazon). Google has 26 renewable energy projects going right now, with even more in the works.

Google has worked hard to hit 3 gigawatts this year, and they’re up against a few obstacles as they move forward. The company wants to buy renewable energy in the regions where it operate, but that’s proving to be difficult.

“In those regions where we can’t yet buy renewables, we’ll keep working on ways to help open the market,” Holzle said. “We do want to get to a point where renewables and other carbon-free energy sources actually power our operations every hour of every day. It will take a combination of technology, policy, and new deal structures to get there, but we’re excited for the challenge.”

Next Up: Energy Storage

At Swell, we’re on board with any company working toward their renewable energy goals. But we can’t help but consider the opportunities many companies are missing without energy storage investments.

By investing in energy storage, even tech titans like Google could enjoy more energy security with stored electricity on-site, and even move closer to using their own generated electrons, the goal that the company currently says is “impossible.”

Battery storage steps in and eliminates the intermittency problem of renewable energy. Even when the wind dies and the sun goes down, energy stored in a battery is still available for use.

But corporations aren’t the only ones who can benefit from energy storage--home batteries can give homeowners the same energy security right under their roof… for just $1 a day. If you’re interested in joining Google in working toward a more reliable, renewable future, hit up a Swell representative.