Power consumption, efficiency and Google

In 2009 a story made headlines that is still being brought up today: British newspaper The Sunday Times claimed that a Google search generated large amounts of greenhouse gases; the same amount of carbon as boiling a kettle of water for tea.

Even though later Google later was able to prove that in fact most searches only needed 35 times less carbon than the report suggested the article and general concerns prompted google to investigate the company’s efficiency, power use, and GHG emissions.

A pretty clear example of Google’s low carbon business model is Youtube: watching a video online certainly creates less pollution than buying a DVD that has been manufactured, packaged, shipped and purchased.Wind Energy

Google has a convincing record of environmental efforts; a previous reegle blog on Google’s investments into renewable energy projects has already explored this sincere support of clean energy. They are now helping to create 1.7 GW of renewable power.

In a blog post made public Thursday, Google revealed an unprecedented amount of data about the carbon footprint of its own operations, thus setting new standards in terms of transparency. Google used 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, which is about half of what major power consumers such as steel companies and oil companies consumed. In order to reduce the impact of this considerable amount, the company is buying renewable power and invests in renewable energy projects to help make it more available. Google pays for carbon offset projects reducing its footprint to zero and tries to make its data centers as efficient as possible.

small_cloud.gifWith regard to data centers it has  emerged that cloud computing is more efficient than traditional models and cheaper for companies than running their own servers, email programs and other software in in-house information technology departments. Some data centers are more efficient than others, and it matters what kind of power they use, so there is always room for improvement. Google says its data centers are about twice as efficient as typical data centers in how much power is used directly for computing compared with power used for heating and cooling. Google also stressed that being more efficient is also a cost factor.

Noah Horowitz, a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council who studies efficiency,  hopes Google’s disclosure prompts other big data center operators such as Apple, Amazon.com and the U.S. Government to also reveal data center efficiency and work to improve it.

As use of computers and online data is still growing at a fast pace, it is crucial to rely on the most efficient technologies, and major companies like Google taking the lead is certainly a strong signal!

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