Google signs 20-year wind power deal

Search giant Google has signed a deal to power its data centres using wind energy for the next 20 years.

The company yesterday revealed that its Google Energy unit, created last December, had inked the deal with renewable power provider NextEra Energy.

The move comes less than three months after Google invested more than £25 million in two of NextEra's wind farms in North Dakota, which provide enough energy to power more than 55,000 homes.

Urs Hoelzle, Google's senior vice president of operations, announced in a blog post that the company would begin buying wind power from a NextEra windfarm in Iowa on July 30th.

As far back as 2007 Google pledged its intention to invest in affordable renewable energy, and has used its Google.org arm to push for greater awareness of climate change.

But lest we forget, it's climate change that Google is, at least in some small measure, responsible for. Google has since 2007 purchased carbon offsets to balance out the environmental impact of its operations - but buying offsets isn't the same as tackling the root issue: power consumption.

The search giant received negative publicity early last year over the alleged environmental impact of Google searches. While some claims - that a Google search consumed nearly half as much energy as boiling a kettle - were exaggerated, the search giant's record isn't greener than green.

It's estimated that the global IT industry accounts for around two per cent of all carbon emissions - as much as aviation - and data centres are among the most power-hungry users of all.

To add to that fact, Google's search technology is designed to produce quick results by setting a number of data centres, located around the world, in competition to produce results the fastest - prioritising speed over environmental impact.

Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross told UK newspaper The Times: "Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy." he said.