Google is making another big purchase of green energy to feed its ever expanding data centers. The company strives to be carbon neutral and has achieved that for several years running now, but only because it buys carbon credits. Most of the energy it uses still comes from coal.
But the company is working on changing that. It has now announced that it has acquired the entire energy output of the Happy Hereford wind farm outside of Amarillo, Texas, all 240 MW of it.
This is Google's biggest deal of its kind; at this point, the company gets about 570 MW of energy from wind energy. It says, that's enough to power 170,000 US homes.
"The Happy Hereford wind farm, which is expected to start producing energy in late 2014, is being developed by Chermac Energy, a small, Native American-owned company based in Oklahoma. The wind farm will provide energy to the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the regional grid that serves our Mayes County, Okla. data center," Google explained.
Strictly speaking, the Texas wind farm won't be powering the Oklahoma data center. For one, that's technically impossible. "Green" electricity is no different than "dirty" one and, once it enters the power grid, all of it gets mixed up.
What's more, the power market is not unified at a state level in the US, meaning Google can't actually buy the energy from the wind farm for the Oklahoma data center. Instead, Google will pay for the wind farm electricity and get renewable energy credits (RECs) for it from the government.
Google will then retire these RECs. The electricity itself will then be sold through the local power grid to the wholesale market. This contrasts with what the Google is doing for its Finland data center, which is powered with green energy from Sweden, possible thanks to the unified energy market in Scandinavia.