Google’s Power Play

Seeking to keep its large data centers supplied with power, Google’s Google Energy subsidiary has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the right to purchase and re-sell electricity to consumers. A vast amount of electricity is required for Google’s cloud computing model, which includes its Google Apps collaboration applications and its popular search engine, and by becoming a player in the energy game Google Energy feels it will be able to contain the cost of energy for Google at the very least.

Google is all too aware of its enormous consumption of power, as the leading search provider with the desire to expand its purview online via other Web services. Google Energy’s request to buy and resell electricity to consumers was made on December 23, 2009 and asked to be approved by February 23, 2010. obtained the subsidiary’s application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Google’s request is a common one among companies that consume a tremendous amount of power, such as Safeway grocery store chains and Wal-Mart retail, to name a few.

Google has thousands of inexpensive, thin rack-mount computers and other servers stashed in large facilities scattered across the globe. Working in parallel, these servers route search engine requests and queries for data from the company’s Google Apps to the next available computers and send the data back to consumers’ PCs and mobile devices. A large amount of energy, and thus a large sum of money, is required for the cloud computing model, and in its application to FERC Google stated that by playing the energy game it can “contain and manage the cost of energy for Google.”

In a statement to, a Google spokesperson said, “Google is interested in procuring more renewable energy as part of our carbon neutrality commitment, and the ability to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market could give us more flexibility in doing so. We made this filing so we can have more flexibility in producing power for Google’s own operations, including our data centers. This FERC authority would improve our ability to hedge out purchases of energy and incorporate renewable into our energy portfolio.”

Google Energy guru Bill Weihl described the company’s objective in layman’s terms during a January 7 interview with the New York Times. “One [motivation] is that we use a moderate amount of energy ourselves: we have a lot of servers, and we have 22,000 employees around the world with office buildings that consume a lot of energy. So we use energy and we care about the cost of that, we care about the environmental impact of it, and we care about the reliability of it,” said the Google Energy czar.

While some might argue that Google’s consumption of power is far more than “moderate,” due to its rather large cloud computing footprint, there are companies out there that consume more energy and are not taking measures to account for it. Also during his interview with the Times, Weihl described Google’s intentions to profit from alternative energy, saying, “We’d be delighted if some of this stuff actually made money, obviously; it is not our goal not to make money. All else being equal, we’d like to makes as much money as we can, but the principle goal is to have a big impact for good.”

Google has invested about $45 million in alternative energy over the past few years, with some of that money going toward eSolar and BrightSource. (Both companies are building towers that capture sunlight to be used as a power source.) Thus while Google’s power plans can be deems capitalistic, they are nonetheless altruistic as well. For mroe information on Google’s Cloud offerings, contact a Nubifer representative today.

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