Google and Walmart are the two most recent examples of how big energy users can void the lack of market demand for clean energy sources. With both companies choosing to support their ambitious sustainability goals through updates at data and production facilities in Oklahoma; these giant energy users are leveraging the opportunities that come with renewable energy use.
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In this sense, Google recently announced it wants to reach 24/7 use of clean energy by 2030 at every one of its offices and data centers. Accordingly, the company engaged in a series of renewable energy contracts; thus, matching its annual electricity use with renewable energy purchases like wind and solar.
Maud Texier, head of energy development for Google’s data centers, commented in this regard; “It’s a real opportunity for us to work with utilities because now, on one side; Google has an incentive to support those new technologies to be deployed on the grid by paying for the electricity coming from it.”
Nevertheless, a significant problem that arises with a more intensive clean energy consumption is that sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine. Thus, there are hours during the day when Google’s server farms must use carbon-based energy to remain online.
However, as significant energy users put that clean capacity on the grid; there’s another benefit most of the time for the grid operator and the other users.
For instance, the company’s earlier efforts to secure more renewable energy helped boost the demand needed to expand the use of wind and solar power, Texier said.
Moreover, Texier noted that Google’s goal is in line with the Biden administration’s own clean energy mandate. The current US administration plans that by 2030, the country’s power grid will get 80% of its electricity from emission-free sources.
Walmart on switching to clean energy sources for consumption
Another example in this regard is Walmart which announced it wants 100% of its power to come from renewable sources by 2035. Accordingly, the retailer secured more than 500 megawatts of new renewable energy generation capacity across three separate wind projects.
Walmart expects those projects to supply renewable energy annually to hundreds of its stores, clubs, and distribution centers. In fact, those centers are located in Texas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. According to the company, the future installed capacity will be enough renewable to power more than 240,000 average American homes for an entire year.
Likewise, Google upgraded its near Pryor data center in northeastern Oklahoma in 2017 through a contract with the Grand River Dam Authority. Thus, the tech giant agreed to purchase 140 megawatts of wind power.
Oklahoma is abundant in wind energy resources; then, the data center in Pryor has nearly reached the company’s ultimate goal. For instance, Google announced last week that five of its data center sites, including Oklahoma; are now operating at or near 90% carbon-free energy.
Nevertheless, these big users acknowledge that just purchasing and powering their operations through cleaner resources isn’t enough. “Wind and solar are part of the solution, but we need more technologies to get there,” Texier said.
Thus, companies must look after different energy efficiency and storage solutions. For instance, large batteries could be used to store excess energy during the day. Then, when wind and solar energy are at their lowest output in the night; the batteries could discharge enough power to keep the servers running.
Finally, “another alternative is to find new ways of generating clean energy in the first place,” she said. Thus, companies can note the potential for geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear power, or even technologies that exist beyond what’s available today.