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Google 'Gets Wind of' Canadian Hills Project in Oklahoma for New Data Center
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September 27, 2012

Google 'Gets Wind of' Canadian Hills Project in Oklahoma for New Data Center

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

Even if we haven’t seen the celebrated Broadway show, we all have heard the song that celebrates, “OOOOk-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain.”  So it should come as no surprise that wind power has become a key component of the state’s renewable energy mix.

Now, Google (News - Alert) and the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) have announced a joint agreement for GRDA to supply Google’s Mayes County, Oklahoma, data center with 48 megawatts (MW) of wind energy from the Canadian Hills Wind project in west central Oklahoma— a 300 MW wind farm slated to come online later this year. 

Image via Shutterstock

This agreement represents a milestone for both Google and GRDA: It marks the first time Google has contracted directly with a utility provider to increase its renewable energy consumption and it is GRDA’s first wind energy PPA (power purchase agreement).

GRDA, based in Vinita Oklahoma, is Oklahoma’s state-owned utility. It operates three hydroelectric facilities and two reservoirs, as well as the wind farm.

Mountain View, California-based Google situated its first data center complex in Mayes County during 2007. Last spring, the search giant announced that a second data center had begun operations. “Over time,” according to the company blog, “we've invested over $700 million and have established a long-term commitment to the region and state. Now a fully operational site, we've created over 100 on-site, full-time jobs and work hard to support the communities in which our employees live and work.”

Google has been working with GRDA to procure additional renewable energy since February of this year, when GRDA approached Google about purchasing power from the Canadian Hills Wind  project. The agreement, in conjunction with the energy supply agreement already in place between Google and GRDA, calls for Google to pay GRDA a premium to purchase renewable energy.

“At Google, we pursue innovative approaches to power our operations with renewable energy,” said SVP of Technical Infrastructure Urs Hoelzle. “We’ve been working closely with all of our utility partners to find ways to make this happen, and we believe this project will be the first of many utility partnerships to deliver renewable energy to our facilities.”

 “Google’s long and demonstrated commitment to renewable energy, combined with their significant and growing presence within our service area, has been an important factor in GRDA’s pursuit of renewables, as exemplified by this agreement,” said Dan Sullivan, CEO of GRDA. “In addition to increasing Google’s access to renewable energy, we are also offsetting part of GRDA’s wind acquisition cost through the premium Google has agreed to pay. We are pleased to pass the savings along to Oklahomans, and we’re proud to pioneer this innovative structure with one of our largest customers.”

 Greenpeace International’s Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook commended the move by Google, stating, “Google’s announcement …shows what the most forward-thinking, successful companies can accomplish when they are serious about powering their operations with clean energy.  Google faced a local grid mix of over 50 percent coal power for its Oklahoma data center. But as a major electricity customer in the state, Google worked with its local utility to secure a new supply of renewable wind energy.”

He added,  “As Google powers more of its data center fleet with clean energy, it sends a signal to other IT companies and electric utilities around the world that renewable energy is not only possible, but is simply smart business in the 21st century economy. “

 He also took the opportunity to disparage Microsoft’s (News - Alert) environmental policies to date, saying, “Google’s announcement also further sharpens the choice that people and businesses have when deciding what search, mail and cloud platforms to use. While both Google and Microsoft have committed to being ‘carbon neutral,’ unlike Google, Microsoft has yet to significantly invest in clean energy.  Microsoft has instead continue to build data centers attached to dirty sources of electricity and sought to mask its dirty energy supply with carbon offsets and renewable energy credits. If Microsoft wants environmentally-minded customers to choose Bing, Outlook and its Microsoft Office cloud, it needs to follow Google’s lead and invest in renewable energy.”

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Austin 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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