Google to Run on 100% Renewable Energy by 2017

Next year, Google's entire global operations, including its data centers and offices, will run on clean energy.

When it comes to large-scale tech, Google appears to have a "go big" or "go home" approach. And in recent years, the tech giant has gone big with renewable energy. So big that the company announced they're on track to have all their global operations powered by renewables next year.

That means Google's offices and, perhaps most significantly, their data centers, will only use a combination of wind and solar power sources for their electricity in 2017. Based on stats from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, last month Google's corporate renewable energy purchasing in the U.S., Europe, and Mexico led the pack. Amazon, the U.S. Department of Defense, Microsoft, and Facebook rounded out the top five.

"Today, we are the world's largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts of wind and solar energy," senior vice president of technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle wrote on the Google blog. "That's bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future."

We've come a long way since Marty asked Doc, "What the hell is a gigawatt?" Utilities tend to express capacity in megawatts, though. That means Google's renewable commitments currently equal 2,600 megawatts. For comparison, the enormous Solar Star Project in California brought 579 megawatts of solar power online last year.

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I see a lot of corporations setting incredible sustainability goals: 100 percent this or that power by 2020, zero emissions by 2040. That's commendable. In light of what humans have already done to the planet, we need those ambitious targets. But then there's the whole reaching-the-goals part.

Google has hit major targets along the way. Not entirely surprising since the company has been investing in energy efficient technologies, green projects, and renewable energy for years now. However, they aren't resting on their laurels with the announcement. Hölzle pointed out that there's lots of progress left to make, requiring bold steps.

We have to go big now. Or there may not be any home to run back to.

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