The company uses as much electricity as San Francisco.
Recently, Google announced that it has purchased a whopping 3 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity — equal to what all of its offices and data centers around the world use on an annual basis.
New clean energy purchases bring our total wind and solar capacity to over 3 gigawatts—enough renewables to match 100% of the energy it takes to run our products in 2017. pic.twitter.com/8ykaWO9LU0
— Google (@Google) November 30, 2017
The tech giant was able to hit this target of matching 100 percent of its energy use after closing new deals to buy wind and solar power generated in South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Iowa, adding to several purchases it has made since 2012.
It’s a significant accomplishment that affirms Google is more aggressive about buying renewable energy for its operations than any of its corporate peers. But let’s be clear: This does not mean Google is “powered” by renewables. Instead, the company hit this mark by buying renewable energy certificates (RECs), which ensure a certain quantity of wind and solar electricity is allocated to a given use. In other words, Google bought renewable power in quantities that match its use, even though that renewable electricity isn’t necessarily powering its operations directly.
“We are purchasing the energy and selling it back into the market in regions where we can’t consume it,” Google spokesperson Amy Atlas told me in an email.
But this isn’t just an accounting gimmick. RECs are a huge market driver for renewable power, and Google’s purchases are part of a larger trend of companies lighting a fire under utilities to build cleaner energy sources.