Google Unveils Energy Consumption Figures For The First Time

As with many tech companies, Google really wants to be green. The tech giant has revealed statistics about its energy use and emissions, hoping to defend against critics that question Google’s claim that its operations are truly environmentally friendly.

Although the company has publicized its efforts to be environmentally conscious, Google released on Thursday detailed information about its power-hungry data centers for the first time. Google, who provides a search engine, Youtube, and Gmail, reported that the company as a whole released 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010 and 1.2 million metric tons came from data centers and offices. Despite these figures, Google claims the company’s electricity consumption is less than 0.01% of the world’s total electricity use.

Google’s fleet vehicles contributed about 11 thousand tons of emissions. Emissions from traveling, construction, and commuting added another 207 thousand tons.

Though Google has publicized its green efforts for years, such as using renewable sources of energy, the company has steadfastly withheld information about their energy use. Experts believe that information was kept secret to prevent Google’s competitors from using it against them or to gain an understanding how its data centers operate.

Google’s efforts in making their data centers and offices greener are comprehensive. Some of the measures the company takes to make their data centers use “50% less energy” than other companies include using efficient servers, power supplies, voltage regulators, evaporative cooling systems, and recycling all electronics. As a result, Google claims the carbon footprint of 1000 searches on its search engine is the same as as the carbon footprint from a glass of orange juice.

Additionally, Google minimizes air conditioning use and cooling which decreases energy use. Offices and data centers have thermostats set at a higher temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Employees allegedly are allowed to wear shorts to work.  Also, Google implements “free cooling” which is the practice of cooling facilities without using chillers. Because they use a significant amount of energy, minimizing the use of chillers and finding alternative cooling methods would yield a decrease in energy consumption and expenses.

Compared with other tech giants, Google is among the greenest. Along with Yahoo and Facebook, Google is a leader in minimizing energy consumption and costs from cooling. Yahoo claims its energy used for cooling is only 1% of the company’s total energy use. Facebook uses evaporative cooling like Google but has also designed their servers and computers to run in warmer temperatures.

Apple is a little slow compared to these companies, though. A new facility in North Carolina will triple its electricity consumption and will be generated by mostly coal (62%) and nuclear (32%) energy.

Despite of all the efforts tech companies are now making to become greener, each individual person can do their part in doing good for the environment. Consider participating in Earth Hour every year. The event by WWF for 2012 will take place on Saturday, March 31 at 8:30pm. Earth Hour encourages everyone to turn off their lights and keep away from using electricity for an hour to promote cutting down on electricity use.

Even though the event was intended primarily to raise awareness, some areas reported actual energy savings during Earth Hour. Officials at Columbia, Missouri, claims the city saved 2.5 megawatts of electricity during Earth Hour 2011, which is enough energy to power 98 homes in Columbia on an average day. In previous years, the city saved 1.72 megawatts in 2008, 1.27 in 2009, and 1.58 in 2010. In addition to the energy savings, more people are participating in the yearly event, fulfilling the event’s primary purpose.  President of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition, Monta Welch reported that 47 businesses observed Earth Hour in 2011, compared to only 27 who turned their lights off in 2010.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/29456235@N04/2926163305

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