From Altamont Pass to Mountain View: Getting more renewable energy on the grid
Technology can help us do more with less. For example, making use of natural climates has helped us make our data centers 50% more efficient than the industry average, and green building technology has helped us limit energy consumption in our offices around the world. Now, we’re doing more with less to power Google’s North Bayshore campus in Mountain View.
We’ve recently signed a long-term agreement to purchase enough local wind energy to offset the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters on an annual basis. While we’ve been committed to being a carbon-neutral company since 2007, and we purchase clean energy for our data centers, this agreement is the first of its kind when it comes to our offices.
The agreement with NextEra Energy Resources will help to repower an iconic Bay Area wind farm at California’s Altamont Pass with new turbines that will pour 43 MW of electricity onto the grid starting in 2016. This new technology is twice as efficient, and also safer—especially for wildlife.
The new turbines will generate energy that feeds into the grid that powers our North Bayshore buildings in Mountain View. While these electrons can’t be traced once they enter the grid, we can measure how many of them leave the turbines, as well as how many we use on campus on an annual basis (tracked through a system of renewable energy credits, or RECs). So even though the electrons follow an untraceable path through the California electricity grid, we can be sure that we’re offsetting the electrical consumption of our North Bayshore headquarters with the renewable energy from the new turbines.
Since our first wind investment in 2010, we’ve developed close relationships with renewable energy providers, helping us secure renewable energy agreements like this one for our campus and data centers—more than 1.1 gigawatt’s worth to date—and it’s also made it possible for us to make equity investments in 17 utility-scale renewable energy projects. And over the years we’ve been thrilled to see other California leaders, from tech companies to universities, also working to bring more renewable energy online.
Finally, if we can geek out for a minute: We think this project is especially cool because back in the 1980’s, the golden hills of Altamont Pass were an early test bed for the first large-scale wind power technology in the U.S. We’ve been blown away (pun intended ) by how far turbine technology has come since then. Once the installation is complete, and the 370 legacy turbines are replaced, it will take just 24 new ones to generate as much power as our campus uses in a year. Talk about doing more with less.
Posted by David Radcliffe, VP, Real Estate and Workplace Services