One percent of Googlers get to visit a data center, but I did

For years I’ve wondered what it’s like behind the protected walls of a Google data center, and I’m not alone. In my job at Google, I spend my days working with developers. Our data centers are crucial to the work that they do, but most have never actually set foot inside a data center. And until recently, neither had I. I went on a mission to find answers to common questions like: Why are visits so tightly restricted? How secure is a Google data center? How do we meet regulatory requirements? Here’s what I found out.

To keep our customers’ data safe, we need to make sure the physical structure of the data center is absolutely secure. Each data center is protected with six layers of physical security designed to thwart unauthorized access. Watch the video above to follow my journey through these layers to the core of a data center, and read on to learn even more.

“Least privilege” is the rule to live by

badge swipe

There are two rules strictly enforced at all Google data centers. The “least privilege” protocol is the idea that someone should have only the bare minimum privileges necessary to perform their job. If your least privilege is to enter Layer 2, you won’t have luck moving to Layer 3. Each person’s access permissions are checked at badge readers that exist at every access point in a data center facility. Authorization measures happen everywhere using this protocol. 

Another rule exists that prevents a vehicle or individual closely following another to gain entry into a restricted area without a badge swipe. If the system detects a door open for too long, it immediately alerts security personnel. Any gate or door must close before the next vehicle or person can badge in and gain access.

Two security checks: badge first, then circle lock

circle lock

You’ve probably seen dual-authentication when you try to sign into an account and a one-time password is sent to your phone. We take a similar approach at the data centers to verify a person’s identity and access. At some layers in the data center, you’re required to swipe your badge, then enter a circle lock, or tubular doorway. You walk into a special “half portal” that checks your badge and scans your eyes to gain access to the next layer of the data center. It prevents tailgating because only one person is allowed in the circle lock at a time.

Shipments are received through a secure loading dock

The facility loading docks are a special section of Layer 3, used to receive and send shipments of materials, such as new hardware. Truck deliveries must be approved for access to Layer 3 to enter the dock. For further security, the loading dock room is physically isolated from the rest of the data center, and guard presence is required when a shipment is received or sent.

All hard drives are meticulously tracked

hard drive

Hard drive tracking is important to the security of your data because hard drives contain encrypted sensitive information. Google meticulously tracks the location and status of every hard drive within our data centers—from acquisition to destruction—using barcodes and asset tags. These asset tags are scanned throughout a hard drive’s lifecycle in a data center from the time it’s installed to the time it’s removed from circulation. Tracking hard drives closely ensures they don’t go missing or end up in the wrong hands.

We also make sure hard drives are properly functioning by doing frequent performance tests. If a component fails to pass a performance test, it’s deemed no longer usable. To prevent any sensitive information from living on that disk, we remove it from inventory to be erased and destroyed in Layer 6, Disk Erase. There, the disk erase formatter uses a multi-step process that wipes the disk data and replaces each bit of data with zeros. If the drive can’t be erased for any reason, it’s stored securely until it can be physically destroyed. 

Layered security extends into the tech itself

Our layered security approach isn’t just a physical safeguard for entering our data centers. It’s also how we protect the hardware and software that live in our data centers. At the deepest layer, most of our server boards and networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. For example, we design chips, such as the Titan hardware security chip, to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google hardware. 

At the storage layer, data is encrypted while it travels in and out of the data center and when it’s stored at the data center. This means whether data is traveling over the internet moving between Google’s facilities, or stored on our servers, it’s protected. Google Cloud customers can even supply their own encryption keys and manage them in a third-party key management system deployed outside Google’s infrastructure. This defense-in-depth approach helps to expand our ability to mitigate potential vulnerabilities at every point

To learn more about our global data centers, visit our Data and Security page. We will also be sharing more about our security best practices during the upcoming Google Cloud Next ’20: OnAir event.

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Our data centers now work harder when the sun shines and wind blows

Addressing the challenge of climate change demands a transformation in how the world produces and uses energy. Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, and 2019 marks the third year in a row that we’ve matched our energy usage with 100 percent renewable energy purchases. Now, we’re working toward 24×7 carbon-free energy everywhere we have data centers, which deliver our products to billions of people around the world. To achieve 24×7 carbon-free energy, our data centers need to work more closely with carbon-free energy sources like solar and wind. 

New carbon-intelligent computing platform

Our latest advancement in sustainability, developed by a small team of engineers, is a new carbon-intelligent computing platform. We designed and deployed this first-of-its kind system for our hyperscale (meaning very large) data centers to shift the timing of many compute tasks to when low-carbon power sources, like wind and solar, are most plentiful. This is done without additional computer hardware and without impacting the performance of Google services like Search, Maps and YouTube that people rely on around the clock. Shifting the timing of non-urgent compute tasks—like creating new filter features on Google Photos, YouTube video processing, or adding new words to Google Translate—helps reduce the electrical grid’s carbon footprint, getting us closer to 24×7 carbon-free energy.

Low carbon energy graphic

Visualization of how we shift compute tasks to different times of day to align with the availability of lower-carbon energy. In this illustration, wind energy in the evening and solar energy during the day.

Each day, at every Google data center, our carbon-intelligent platform compares two types of forecasts for the following day. One of the forecasts, provided by our partner Tomorrow, predicts how the average hourly carbon intensity of the local electrical grid will change over the course of a day. A complementary Google internal forecast predicts the hourly power resources that a data center needs to carry out its compute tasks during the same period. Then, we use the two forecasts to optimize hour-by-hour guidelines to align compute tasks with times of low-carbon electricity supply. Early results demonstrate carbon-aware load shifting works. Results from our pilot suggest that by shifting compute jobs we can increase the amount of lower-carbon energy we consume. 

Baseline vs carbon-aware load

Data from our pilot illustrates how the new system shifts compute from our baseline (dashed line) to better align with less carbon-intensive times of the day—such as early morning and late evening (solid line)—when wind energy is most plentiful. Gray shading represents times of day when more carbon-intensive energy is present on the grid.

What’s next

The first version of this carbon-intelligent computing platform focuses on shifting tasks to different times of the day, within the same data center. But, it’s also possible to move flexible compute tasks between different data centers, so that more work is completed when and where doing so is more environmentally friendly. Our plan for the future is to shift load in both time and location to maximize the reduction in grid-level CO2 emissions. Our methodology, including performance results of our global rollout, will be shared in upcoming research publications. We hope that our findings inspire other organizations to deploy their own versions of a carbon-intelligent platform, and together, we can continue to encourage the growth of carbon-free electricity worldwide. Learn more about Google’s progress toward a carbon-free future on our Sustainability site.

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Keeping our network infrastructure strong amid COVID-19

Google’s network supports products that people around the world rely on every day, like YouTube, Search, Maps and Gmail. It also connects Google Cloud customers to their employees and users. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads and more people move to working or learning from home, it’s natural to wonder whether the Google network can handle the load. The short answer is yes. 

We’ve designed our network to perform during times of high demand. The same systems we built to handle peaks like the Cyber Monday online shopping surge, or to stream the World Cup finals, support increased traffic as people turn to Google to find news, connect with others, and get work done during this pandemic. And while we’re seeing more usage for products like Hangouts Meet, and different usage patterns in products like YouTube, peak traffic levels are well within our ability to handle the load. 

Google’s network consists of a system of high-capacity fiber optic cables that encircle the globe, under both land and sea, connecting our data centers to each other, and to you. Traffic flows over our dedicated network, optimized for speed and reliability until we hand it off to more than 3,000 internet service providers (ISPs) in 200+ countries and territories for local delivery—the “last mile”—using hundreds of points of presence and thousands of edge locations around the world.

Handling traffic on Google’s infrastructure and bringing it close to people helps limit the burden on operators—whose networks have different levels of reserve capacity—to allow them to focus on delivering that last mile. Together, we work to provide the best possible experience for browsing, video-conferencing, streaming, making purchases online, and more to people around the world. We’re continuing to work with governments and network operators around the globe as we do our part to minimize stress on the system. As part of this, we recently announced that we are temporarily defaulting all videos on YouTube to standard definition.  

We also recognize the importance of Google services at a time like this and continue to add capacity to stay ahead of demand. Our dedicated global network deployment and operations team is increasing capacity wherever needed, and, in the event of a disruption, recovers service as quickly as possible. 

This may be a time of global uncertainty, but we’re working hard to ensure the Google network is there for everyone, business or consumer, day and night.

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Data centers are more energy efficient than ever

While Google is the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, we’re also taking action on climate change by minimizing the amount of energy we need to use in the first place. For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make our data centers as energy efficient as possible. Today, a new paper in Science validated our efforts and those of other leaders in our industry. It found that efficiency improvements have kept energy usage almost flat across the globe’s data centers—even as demand for cloud computing has skyrocketed.

The new study shows that while the amount of computing done in data centers increased by about 550 percent between 2010 and 2018, the amount of energy consumed by data centers only grew by six percent during the same time period. The study’s authors note that these energy efficiency gains outpaced anything seen in other major sectors of the economy. As a result, while data centers now power more applications for more people than ever before, they still account for about 1 percent of global electricity consumption—the same proportion as in 2010. 

What’s more, research has consistently shown that hyperscale (meaning very large) data centers are far more energy efficient than smaller, local servers. That means that a person or company can immediately reduce the energy consumption associated with their computing simply by switching to cloud-based software. As the data center industry continues to evolve its operations, this efficiency gap between local computing and cloud computing will continue to grow.

Searching for efficiency

How are data centers squeezing more work out of every electron, year after year? For Google, the answer comes down to a relentless quest to eliminate waste, at every level of our operations. We designed highly efficient Tensor Processing Units, (the AI chips behind our advances in machine learning), and outfitted all of our data centers with high-performance servers. Starting in 2014, we even began using machine learning to automatically optimize cooling in our data centers. At the same time, we’ve deployed smart temperature, lighting, and cooling controls to further reduce the energy used at our data centers. 

Our efforts have yielded promising results: Today, on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. And compared with five years ago, we now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power. 

By directly controlling data center cooling, our AI-powered recommendation system is already delivering consistent energy savings of around 30 percent on average. And the average annual power usage effectiveness for our global fleet of data centers in 2019 hit a new record low of 1.10, compared with the industry average of 1.67—meaning that Google data centers use about six times less overhead energy for every unit of IT equipment energy.

Leading by example

So where do we go from here? We’ll continue to deploy new technologies and share the lessons we learn in the process, design the most efficient data centers possible, and disclose data on our progress. To learn about our efforts to power the internet using as little power as possible—and how we’re ensuring that the energy we use is carbon-free, around the clock—check out our latest Environment Report or visit our data center efficiency site.

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Continuing to grow and invest across America in 2020

Today I’m pleased to announce that Google will invest more than $10 billion in offices and data centers across the United States in 2020. 

Google has a presence in 26 states across the country and our new investments will be focused in 11 of them: Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and California. 

Everywhere we invest, we strive to create meaningful opportunities for local communities. A powerful example is our data center in Pryor, a town in Mayes County, Oklahoma. Last year, I visited Pryor to announce a $600 million investment, our fourth expansion there since 2007. It felt like the whole community came out to welcome us, from small business owners to teachers to Google employees. Pryor Mayor Larry Lees told the crowd that Google’s investments have helped provide local schools with the resources they need—including the latest textbooks and STEM courses—to offer a world-class education. He talked about the small businesses we have helped train and the mentorship Googlers have provided to Pryor’s students. 

This is exactly the kind of difference we hope to make with our new office and data center projects in 2020. These investments will create thousands of jobs—including roles within Google, construction jobs in data centers and renewable energy facilities, and opportunities in local businesses in surrounding towns and communities. 

This effort builds on the momentum of the $13 billion investment in communities from South Carolina to Nevada we made in 2019. Combined with other R&D investments, Google’s parent company Alphabet was the largest investor in the U.S. last year, according to a reportfrom the Progressive Policy Institute.  

We look forward to continuing this progress in the year ahead. Here’s a look at our 2020 investments by region:

2020 investments by region

South

Google continues to invest in Atlanta, and we will be welcoming new engineering teams to our growing office there this year. We will also invest in expanded offices and data centers in Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Plus, we’ll open a Google Operations Center in Mississippi to improve our customer support for users and partners around the world. 

Breaking ground at new office development in Atlanta, in 2019

Breaking ground at our office development in Atlanta in 2019. We’re expanding our space in Atlanta this year.

Midwest 

We recently opened a new Google Cloud office in Chicago and expanded our office in Madison, Wisconsin. We’ll make additional investments in our offices in Detroit, open a new data center in Ohio, and complete the expansion of our data center in Iowa.

Ribbon cutting at our new Google Cloud office in Chicago, Ill., in 2019.

Ribbon cutting at our new Google Cloud office in Chicago in 2019.

Central 

In Colorado, we have the capacity to double our workforce over the next few years, in part by expanding our presence in Boulder. We’ll also invest further in growing data centers in Nebraska and Oklahoma. 

Sundar Pichai speaking at Google’s Mayes County, Okla., data center expansion event.

Google’s Mayes County, Oklahoma data center expansion event. 

East 

We’re opening our new Hudson Square campus in New York City, where we have the capacity to double our local workforce by 2028. We’re also expanding our office in Pittsburgh, and a bigger office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is under development. 

West 

We are expanding our Google Cloud campus in Seattle and undertaking a major development in Kirkland to open later this year. We’re making office and data center investments in Oregon. In California, we continue to invest in new locations in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. 

We’ll also accelerate our work with businesses, governments, and community organizations to distribute the $1 billion we committed for Bay Area housing. In the first six months of this commitment, we’ve helped to create more than 380 new affordable housing units in the Bay Area, including an investment in a development focused on affordable and inclusive housing for adults with disabilities. There’s more to come in 2020.

In addition to these investments in infrastructure and jobs, we’ll also continue our work nationally with local startups, entrepreneurs and small business owners to help Americans access new digital opportunities. Already Grow with Google and Google for Startups have trained more than 4 million Americans in hundreds of communities across all 50 states. Looking ahead, we’re especially excited about our work creating pathways to jobs in the fast-growing field of IT through our two Grow with Google certificate programs

Our growth is made possible only with the help of our local Googlers, partners and communities who have welcomed Google with open arms. Working together, we will continue to grow our economy, create good jobs for more Americans and make sure everyone can access the opportunities that technology creates.

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Our biggest renewable energy purchase ever

Sustainability has been one of Google’s core values from our earliest days. Over the years we’ve worked hard to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, build products with people and planet in mind, and drive change at scale through our supply chains.

A cornerstone of our sustainability efforts is our commitment to clean energy. We’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007. In 2017, we became the first company of our size to match our entire annual electricity consumption with renewable energy (and then we did it again in 2018). As a result, we became the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.

Today we’re taking another big step by making the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history. This purchase is made up of a 1,600-megawatt (MW) package of agreements and includes 18 new energy deals. Together, these deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of wind and solar agreements by more than 40 percent, to 5,500 MW—equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops. Once all these projects come online, our carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than places like Washington D.C. or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year. 

cumulative capacity of google's renewable energy portfolio

Our newest energy purchases will increase Google’s existing renewable energy portfolio by more than 40 percent.

Our latest agreements will also spur the construction of more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure, including millions of solar panels and hundreds of wind turbines spread across three continents. In all, our renewable energy fleet now stands at 52 projects, driving more than $7 billion in new construction and thousands of related jobs.   

To ensure maximum impact, all of our latest deals meet the rigorous “additionality” criteria we set out long ago for our energy purchases. This means we’re not buying power from existing wind and solar farms but instead are making long-term purchase commitments that result in the development of new projects. Bringing incremental renewable energy to the grids where we consume energy is a critical component of pursuing 24×7 carbon-free energy for all of our operations.

Current wind and solar projects

Clockwise from top left: Wind and solar projects that currently serve Google in Sweden; North Carolina; the Netherlands; Oklahoma; and Chile.

These 18 new deals span the globe, and include investments in the U.S., Chile and Europe. In the U.S., we’ll purchase energy from 720 MW of solar farms in North Carolina (155 MW), South Carolina (75 MW), and Texas (490 MW)—more than doubling the capacity of our global solar portfolio to date. In South America, we’re adding 125 MW of renewable energy capacity to the grid that supplies our data center in Chile. Finally, almost half (793 MW) of the new renewable energy capacity purchased will be located in Europe, specifically Finland (255 MW), Sweden (286 MW), Belgium (92 MW), and Denmark (160 MW).

These renewable energy purchases aren’t only notable for their size. Up to now, most of our renewable energy purchases in the U.S. have been wind-driven, but the declining cost of solar (down more than 80 percent in the past decade) has made harnessing the sun increasingly cost-effective. Meanwhile, our Chile deal marks the first time we’ll buy power in a hybrid technology deal that combines solar and wind. Because the wind often blows at different times than the sun shines, pairing them will allow us to match our Chilean data center with carbon-free electricity for a larger portion of each day.

GLOBAL GIF MAP_ Blog before-after GIF.gif

The agreements announced today will bring additional large-scale solar and wind farms—representing more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure—to electric grids worldwide.

Beyond our own operations, we’re working to make clean energy mainstream and break down the barriers for those who want to purchase renewable energy. Today we’re announcing two new grants from Google.org to provide further support for organizations that expand access to clean energy for all businesses—from flower shops to big-box retailers to startups. We’ll provide a $500,000 grant to Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) in the U.S. and a 500,000 euro grant to RE-Source in Europe. These grants will help fund the development of new purchasing models, provide training and resources for consumers, and enable more widespread access to clean power.

As you can see in our newly released 2019 Environmental Report, these are just a few of the ways we’re working to tackle climate change at a global scale. We’re also investing in AI and other technologies like Google Earth Engine to scale these efforts beyond our walls. Our goal is to make sure technology can benefit everyone—and the planet we call home. With today’s announcement, we’re one step closer to that goal.

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Coming soon to the Lone Star State: more office space and a data center

We’re expanding in Texas. Austin has been home to Google for over a decade and today, we’re extending our commitment to the state with a new data center in Midlothian, and the lease of two new buildings for our Austin workforce. These new commitments are part of our larger $13 billion investment in offices and data centers across the United States, which we announced earlier this year.

Breaking ground at our new Midlothian Data Center earlier this afternoon

Breaking ground at our new Midlothian Data Center

We’re investing $600 million to develop the Midlothian site, which will create a number of full-time jobs, as well as hundreds of construction jobs to build the new data center. As part of this investment, we’re also making a $100,000 grant to the Midlothian Independent School District to support the continued growth and development of the region’s STEM programs in schools.

In Austin, we already have more than 1,100 employees working across Android, G Suite, Google Play, Cloud, staffing and recruiting, people operations, finance and marketing. As we continue to grow, we’ve leased additional office space at Block 185 and Saltillo—located in downtown Austin and east Austin, respectively—to accommodate our short and long-term growth.

Our current downtown Austin office on W 2nd Street

Our current downtown Austin office on W 2nd Street. We will maintain our presence there while expanding to new locations at Saltillo and Block 185.

The Lone Star state has become a hub for tech innovation and we’ve been fortunate to be a part of its growth from the very beginning. It’s the amazing talent and spirit of work and play that brought us to Texas 12 years ago and it’s what keeps us here today. We look forward to meeting our new neighbors in the Midlothian-Dallas Metro area and we’re excited to be a part of these communities for many years to come.

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Investing in Oklahoma and across the U.S.

Editor’s Note: This week we’re making some big moves around the $13 billion U.S. investment we announced in February. On Monday, our CFO Ruth Porat was in Michigan to announce an additional investment in our offices in Ann Arbor and Detroit. And tomorrow, we’re breaking ground on a new data center in Midlothian, TX, and expanding our office in Austin.

Today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was in Oklahoma to announce a $600 million investment to expand our data center in Mayes County, as well as our biggest computer science education grant in Google.org’s history. Read his edited remarks below.

I enjoy visiting the places our data centers call home. I especially love to see the local touches. In the case of Pryor, it’s the mechanical bull in the lobby, which I’m told is a lot of fun. It requires good positioning, strong balance, and sometimes digging in your heels. So, not much different from my day job.

But the real reason I look forward to these visits is the community. It’s a privilege to meet the people who are making Pryor a great place to live and work.

At Google, we are technology optimists. Not because we believe in technology, but because we believe in people. 

The people of Mayes County shared our sense of optimism from the very start. That optimism is why, when Google proposed building a data center here in 2007, you welcomed us with open arms. And that optimism is what’s made it possible for Google to continue our expansion in Pryor in the years since—not once, not twice…but three times. Today’s announcement will make it four.

Pryor is already home to one of Google’s largest data centers in the country. I am pleased to announce that we will be investing another $600 million to expand the data center here and create an additional 100 jobs for the Pryor community. This brings the total investment in Oklahoma to over $3 billion, and total jobs created to more than 500.

It’s part of our $13 billion investment in expanding our data centers across the U.S. This week we also announced new investments in Michigan, and we’re breaking ground on a new data center in Texas.

This national expansion comes at a significant moment for Google. For 21 years we’ve pursued a timeless mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. In that time, we’ve evolved from a company that helps people find answers to a company that helps people throughout their day.

Pryor is a part of our effort to build a more helpful Google for everyone. We’ve spent more than two decades scaling our technical infrastructure to match the growth of information. And we are continuously working to make it more efficient and more reliable.

This site is an important part of our global network of data centers. This network is what powers your searches, your email, all of the photos you store and treasure, and the maps that help you find the fastest way home. And that network includes 13 locations around the world, with new data centers underway in eight additional locations.

It’s a privilege to serve billions of people every day. With that privilege comes a big responsibility to ensure that information truly serves everyone. Every day, millions of Americans go online to find answers, learn new skills, and grow their businesses. Two years ago, Google announced Grow with Google, a new effort to expand economic opportunity to all Americans. A big way we do this is through digital skills training. Our partnership with Goodwill is already helping thousands of Oklahomans learn new skills and find jobs.

We’re also excited to help young people learn computer science to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. Since 2017, we’ve been working with the National 4-H Council to create a computer science curriculum.

Today we are pleased to be able to build on this work with a $6 million grant to support computer science education in 4-H chapters across the country. This is our largest ever computer science education grant from Google.org. It will help ensure that young people in Oklahoma and 25 other states have access to the curriculum, training, and devices to learn and grow their coding skills. I look forward to joining students to do some coding later today!

Thank you to everyone who has a hand in keeping our data center running smoothly. We’re proud to call Oklahoma home, and look forward to Pryor being a vital part of the engine that powers the internet for years to come.

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Let the sunshine in: opening the market for more renewable energy in Asia

Since 2010, we’ve signed on to more than 30 solar and wind projects across the Americas and Europe, making us the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Today we’re adding a fourth continent to our clean energy portfolio: Asia.

We’ve signed a long-term agreement to purchase the output of a 10-megawatt solar array (which is part of a larger solar farm) in Tainan City, Taiwan. This deal is a result of collaboration between Google, industry stakeholders and the Taiwanese government—which recently amended Taiwan’s Electricity Act to allow non-utility companies to directly buy renewable energy and decrease their carbon footprints. We’re the first corporate power purchaser to act on this renewables-friendly change to the law.

Standing 40,000 solar panels strong, our project in Taiwan will be located 100 kilometers south of our Changhua County data center and connected to the same regional power grid. As the Taiwanese government pursues further measures to remove market barriers and reduce renewable energy costs, we’re hopeful that more companies will purchase renewable energy, driving even larger projects across Taiwan.

Google’s effort to add more renewable energy in Taiwan builds on our longstanding collaboration with governments and utilities worldwide to make clean power more accessible. As far back as 2013, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with our North Carolina electricity provider, Duke Energy, to develop a program that enables companies to source power from local solar farms. Similarly, last year we finalized an arrangement with the state of Georgia that allows corporations to buy renewable energy directly through the state’s largest electric utility.

data center tour

Gary Demasi, Senior Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy, gives President Tsai Ing-Wen a tour of our Taiwan data center.

For Google, the solar purchase agreement provides a long-term and fixed electricity price to support our operations in Taiwan; it will also boost the carbon-free profile of our local data center. In addition, it’s a step in the right direction for grid reliability and Taiwan’s broader energy supply mix, which the government wants to expand and make more renewable in the coming years.

Thanks to our development partners Diode Ventures, Taiyen Green Energy (臺鹽綠能),J&V Energy (雲豹能源) andNew Green Power (永鑫能源), the project will have a unique design and community impact: poles will be mounted into commercial fishing ponds (pictured below) to elevate solar panels several feet into the sky. This setup will maximize land-use efficiency (important in a densely populated region), respect local ecology (fish and solar panels can coexist peacefully), and generate local economic benefits (the fishing community will be compensated for hosting solar panels on its ponds).

taiwansolar

The Taiwanese energy developer New Green Power (永鑫能源) will deploy 40,000 solar panels for Google across commercial fishing ponds, in a way that maximizes land-use efficiency and benefits local aquaculture workers.

Our inaugural renewable energy project in Asia is an encouraging example of what’s possible when forward-thinking government officials, local stakeholders and companies work together for a brighter future. A policy landscape offering a clear path to cost-effective renewable power procurement is essential as more people and more organizations look to access carbon-free energy. We applaud Taiwan for giving the green light to green energy initiatives like ours—the first of hopefully many more in the region.

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Why we’re putting 1.6 million solar panels in Tennessee and Alabama

Hundreds of engineers, electricians and construction workers are building two new, energy-efficient Google data center campuses in the Southeastern U.S.—one in Tennessee and another in northern Alabama. And we’re not stopping there—we’re also putting more carbon-free energy on the electric grid that will power our servers in the region. In the coming years, Google will purchase the output of several new solar farms as part of a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), totaling 413 megawatts of power from 1.6 million solar panels—that’s equivalent to the combined size of 65,000 home rooftop solar systems.

construction

An aerial view of our Tennessee data center under construction (photo credit: Aerial Innovations).

Located in Hollywood, Alabama and Yum Yum, Tennessee, the two biggest solar farms will be able to produce around 150 megawatts each. These solar sites will be among the largest renewable energy projects in the Tennessee Valley region, and the largest solar farms ever to be built for Google. Thanks to the abundant solar power generated by these new farms, electricity consumed by our data centers in Tennessee and Alabama will be matched with 100 percent renewable energy from day one, helping us match our annual electricity consumption as we grow.

Deploying solar farms does more than provide a cost-effective way to procure clean power. It will also create economic benefits for Tennessee and northern Alabama. TVA’s developer partners—NextEra Energy Resources and Invenergy—will hire hundreds of workers in the region, make long-term lease payments to property owners, and generate millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue for the broader community. To date, Google’s more than 30 long-term contract commitments to purchase renewable energy have resulted in nearly $5 billion in investment worldwide.

Last year, we shared our long-term objective to source carbon-free electricity around the clock for each of our data centers. These new solar projects will bring us substantially closer to that goal in the Southeastern U.S. In the carbon heat map below, you can see how well our operations in the region will be matched with carbon-free energy on an hour-by-hour basis, compared to a scenario without the solar projects. The green ribbon that appears in the heat map illustrates how the solar farms will make the majority of our daytime electricity use carbon-free.

looping GIF

Thanks to the deployment of 1.6 million solar panels, approximately 72 percent of our data center electricity use in Alabama and Tennessee will be matched on an hourly basis with carbon-free sources—compared to a status-quo regional grid mix that is 48 percent carbon free. (This projection is based on 2017 TVA generation, power demand of a typical Google data center, and local solar resources.)

There’s still more to do to make our data centers fully carbon free around the world, and we have a number of ideas on how to get there. We’re one step closer thanks to the solar stardom of Hollywood, Alabama and the carbon-free flavors of Yum Yum, Tennessee.

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