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Green giant

It takes energy to process more than 400 hours of YouTube video uploads each minute and trillions of online searches each year. A lot of energy.

But even more remarkable than the amount of energy Google consumes annually, a figure roughly equal to usage for the entire city of San Francisco, is this news: The online giant next year will purchase enough renewable energy to satisfy its enormous needs.

“(We) will reach 100 percent renewable energy for our global operations—including both our data centers and offices,” the company said in a blog post this week, noting it is the largest corporate buyer of renewable power worldwide.

“We began purchasing renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint and address climate change—but it also makes business sense,” Google added.

Indeed, since the company began to purchase renewable energy, prices for wind and solar have dropped 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

Critics were quick to say that Google does not actually use only renewable energy. It buys power from a grid supplied by a range of sources, including hydroelectric, coal and natural gas.

That naysaying misses the point, however. By entering into purchasing agreements with renewable energy producers, Google now can offset fossil fuel-based energy it uses with renewable energy, mostly from wind power farms.

While Google is at the forefront of business commitment to renewable energy, it is not acting alone. AP reports that Apple Inc. now buys enough renewable energy to power more than 90 percent of its global operations. Microsoft Corp. and Facebook also have made big renewable energy buys.

For Google, achieving 100 percent renewable energy purchasing annually on a global basis is a milestone on a longer journey. “We will work to achieve the much more challenging long-term goal of powering our operations on a region-specific, 24-7 basis with clean, zero-carbon energy,” the company said.

With the federal commitment to renewable energy now highly uncertain, the leadership role played by Google and other companies is vitally important.

12/9/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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