Greenies Give Google ‘Good Example’ Props

For the first time in the search engine’s history, Google revealed just how much electricity it takes to power its massive computing infrastructure.

Google announced that for the year 2010, it used 2.6 million megawatt-hours of energy to run its data centers, search mechanisms, Gmail, YouTube and display ads globally. That number is about what it would take to power 200,000 homes in the U.S. each year, or equal to what it takes to power 41 Empire State Buildings annually.

The search engine giant uses a new illustrated report to explain the amount of energy it consumes and to promote its green efforts. Until now, the data was a closely guarded secret.

Green, but Could Be Greener

Environmental groups praised Google’s announcement Thursday. Greenpeace in particular has been meeting with Google and other high-profile tech companies to encourage them to set an example.

“In the last two years, Google has actually made significant power improvements. They finally realized they had a competitive advantage to tell their story, and we certainly gave them a hard time to do that. You can be carbon neutral and you can be doing lots of great investments, but until you tell people about it and educate, you’re not really doing as much to help,” Gary Cook, IT analyst for Greenpeace International, told TechNewsWorld.

Some of the advances Google has made include trying to build energy-efficient data centers and taking growing notice of its carbon footprint, one that the company touted as carbon neutral or even “beyond zero.” Its reasoning is that since tools like Gmail and rapid searches increase productivity and reduce waste, that offsets the footprint.

While Google has made giant steps in reducing emissions, Greenpeace says the zero carbon footprint is difficult to measure and probably not quite true.

“Google and other IT companies certainly do have significant opportunities to reduce emissions in other parts of the economy, especially if the data centers are attached to clean energy sources and can reduce consumption in other areas, but there’s not really good evidence beyond anecdotal evidence for saying that Google is carbon neutral yet,” said Cook.

Why the Big Reveal?

Google didn’t respond to TechNewsWorlds’ questions about why it chose to put out the information now, but as companies begin to compete more aggressively for a growing cloud computing market, Google may have decided transparency is the best policy in regard to its green effort in the tech space.

“This could be taking a page out of Facebook’s initiative — that’s a company that has been a little more transparent as far as energy,” Rick Summer, an analyst with Morningstar, told TechNewsWorld.

Other tech leaders such as Microsoft have also gone public with energy consumption numbers in an effort to win investors and consumers on the cost-effective and socially friendly benefits that come with green policies. High-profile companies, especially in the tech industry, tend to follow each other with these types of major announcements.

“It’s good overall for the industry. They don’t always have an incentive for running efficiently with power, but folks like Facebook, Google and Microsoft can really be the catalyst for innovating data centers,” said Summer.

The hope among environmental groups is that Google’s announcement and the appeal of the cloud industry will lead to further transparency and a focus on green initiatives in the future.

“I think it’s great they’re putting their numbers out there, and I hope other companies do the same,” said Cook.

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