As demand for online services grows, Google’s presence in data centers in Europe is rapidly expanding. But instead of increasing carbon emissions, the company says these new buildings reinforce the EU’s commitment to fighting climate change.
In Hamina, Finland, work is underway to build Google’s sixth data center in Europe, following the opening last week of a new building in Fredericia, Denmark. This week, Google’s second data center in the Netherlands will also start operating in Middenmeer.
The search giant’s investment in new European infrastructure is a direct result of a surge in consumer demand for services ranging from YouTube videos to Google Maps, which has been driven by the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying shift to remote work and online learning.
Demand will only grow in the next few years, and with it the need for more data centers to support and deliver cloud services. However, Google will have to make a commitment to the EU to fight climate change: just last week, the EU announced a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030, in addition to the renewable energy target of 32%.
data centers are known to consume a lot of electricity, and last year they accounted for 0.8% of global electricity demand. however, matt brittin, google’s president of europe, said the company will be the engine of europe’s transition to a green economy.
“Google is helping accelerate this transition,” Brittin wrote in a new blog post. “We are proud to invest in Europe’s digital infrastructure, contribute to the local communities in which we operate, and support Europe’s transition to environmental safety. This will be a crucial decade, and we are committed to being an example.”
Since 2017, Google has been combining the company’s energy consumption with 100% renewable energy. This means that for every megawatt-hour of electricity consumed annually by the search giant worldwide, it buys the equivalent amount of wind or solar power in the same year.
Google is currently the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world and the second largest in Europe. According to Brittin, the company has now supported about 1,700 megawatts of renewable energy projects in Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. Google has also pledged to invest 2 billion euros in new carbon-free energy generation projects and green infrastructure in Europe over the next five years.
Last year, a study by the European Commission on Google’s contribution to the fight against climate change highlighted the value of the tech giant’s contracts for renewable energy projects in the European countries where it operates.
“In Europe, Google is playing a leading role in accelerating the transition to clean energy in the private sector,” the report said. “The company’s experience may encourage other European companies to benefit from the purchase of renewable energy and support the EU in achieving the 2030 target.”
The study also highlighted the energy efficiency of Google’s facilities and reported that if all data centers in Europe were as efficient as Google’s, electricity consumption could be reduced by about 26 TWh annually.
according to brittin, google’s data centers are twice as energy efficient as conventional corporate facilities. together with deepmind, the company effectively developed an artificial intelligence tool to manage and optimize the energy used to cool buildings, which helped reduce power consumption in data centers by 30%.
Brittin also reiterated Google’s recent promise to take another step in reducing carbon emissions over the next decade. According to the company, matching electricity consumption with the purchase of renewable energy is not enough; Google is currently working to provide carbon-free energy around the clock in all its data centers.
Although Google buys enough renewable energy to offset the company’s annual electricity consumption, this does not mean that there is enough renewable energy to meet demand for any particular data center and at any time of the day. If the sun does not shine or the wind is not enough, buildings effectively resort to alternative sources of electricity, which are not always renewable.
The search giant is banking on new technologies, such as AI, as well as battery innovations, to instead achieve a new goal – a round-the-clock carbon-free energy supply by 2030.” This is much more complicated than the traditional approach. We are working on the alignment of energy use with renewable energy sources, but we are working on this in the next nine years, ” Brittin said.
In line with this goal, Google is already testing carbon-smart platforms in its European data centers. Last year, at the company’s facilities in Hamina, Finland, 97% of the building’s electricity was consumed from carbon-free sources on an hourly basis.