Google reveals carbon footprint

Posted by Emma Woollacott

In an effort to push cloud-based services, Google has revealed its power consumption figures for the first time.

The company says that the cloud can be much more energy-efficient than locally hosted services, by maximizing server
utilization, using high-efficiency facilities and focusing on power usage efficiency.

According to Google, the average search query requires about 0.0003 kWh of energy, equivalent to about 0.2g of carbon dioxide being released into the environment. A minute's worth of YouTube requires about half that.

All in all, says the company, the average Google user needs the same amount of power per month for its services as a light left on for three hours.

However, senior vice president for technical infrastructure Urs Hoelzle says that all this is offset, with Google having been a carbon neutral company since 2007.

"We started the process of getting to zero by making sure our operations use as little energy as possible. For the last decade, energy use has been an obsession," he says.

"We’ve designed and built some of the most efficient servers and data centers in the world—using half the electricity of a typical data center. Our newest facility in Hamina, Finland, opening this weekend, uses a unique seawater cooling system that requires very little electricity."

Google's Mountain View campus includes a large solar panel installation, and the company's also bought the entire output of two wind farms to power its data centers.

These activities have been publicized by the company before - but its total carbon footprint hasn't. Data centers are notorious power-guzzlers, and other major tech firms have come under fire for this.

Last year, for example, Facebook was the subject of a campaign by Greenpeace over its power use after announcing that it intended to double the size of its Prineville, Oregon facility.