Google says its data centers use half the energy of typical data centers, and its efficiency report for the first quarter of 2012 points to an even greener future. The company's impressive statistics are achieved through simple energy saving methods including efficient temperature management, reductions in residual energy loss and actually constructing its own sites. As the use of cloud computing services become more and more prevalent the data center industry is set to boom and Google is pushing to give keep this expansion green with facilities like its new data center in Hamina, Finland.
The data center industry uses a standard measurement called PUE, or power usage effectiveness, to measure the efficiency of any given site. The ideal PUE rating would be 1.0, and PUE of 2.0 means that for every watt of power used for IT equipment, an additional watt is used in overheads.
Across all its data centers, in all seasons and including all sources of overhead, Google's PUE is 1.13. That means that it loses just 13 percent extra power in overheads (everything from cooling to power distribution), and that number is even lower for Q1 2012, at just 1.11. To put that into context, according to the EPA's Energy Star Program, a typical PUE is 1.92. That makes the search giant more than seven times greener than average. Needless to say, Google is extremely efficient in running its data centers. It claims that the idea of keeping them super cold is a myth and advise others to turn off the dehumidifying and reheating functions on their air conditioners whilst bringing the temperature up to 80° F (26° C) in the cold aisle.
But Google goes to even greater lengths than that. Not only does it use recycled water to save both money and resources, but it constructs its own facilities, carefully selecting climates that exhibit perfect conditions for data centers. A great example of this is the company's new facility in Hamina, Finland, which is built on the Baltic Sea and achieves chiller-less cooling through the use of sea-water.
So what does is this mean in real terms? All the effort that Google goes to, means that the CO2 emissions generated by a single Google query are 850 times less than producing a single newspaper, and a full 10,000 times less than that five-mile car journey to your local library.
And that's not even mentioning the amount of clean energy that Google funnels into the power grid through power purchase agreements (PPAs). It invests in renewable power projects that represent a total combined capacity of over 1.7 GW which, as the search giant is quick to point out, is far more energy than it uses for its own operations. In fact, it's the same amount of energy used to power more than 350,000 homes.
Google is far from being a newcomer to green energy. In April 2011 it invested US$168 million in the world's largest solar power tower plant and in 2008 it announced its "Clean Energy 2030" plan which included proposals to significantly cut vehicle oil consumption, CO2 emissions and US reliance on fossil-fuel based electricity.