SAN JOSE, Calif. – For the first time, Google Inc. has revealed its global electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, part of a concerted effort to become more transparent about its energy use as it opens new data centers, purchases additional buildings, hires more employees and encourages consumers to use its cloud-based services like Gmail.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search giant revealed Thursday that the company consumed 2.26 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010. For comparison, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that the average U.S home uses about 11,000 kilowatt-hours a year – which means Google’s electricity consumption is roughly equivalent to 200,000 homes.
Google has 29,000 employees worldwide, owns millions of square feet of office space in Dublin, Mountain View, New York and elsewhere and is about to open its latest data center in Finland.
Google says it emitted 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010 – equivalent to the yearly emissions of 70,000 Americans. Google purchases carbon offsets for its emissions and has been “carbon neutral” since 2007. It says 25 percent of its electricity came from renewable sources in 2010, a figure expected to rise to 30 percent in 2011 and 35 percent in 2012.
Tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are under enormous pressure to reduce the environmental impact of their data centers and operations as more and more computing services – from email to video streaming – move to remote servers in “the cloud” and as consumers increasingly rely on mobile phones and tablets.
Earlier this week, Google announced that switching to Gmail for email can be about 80 times more energy-efficient than most in-house email, thanks to Google’s data centers.
It also said consumers can conserve energy by watching videos on YouTube, which Google owns, rather than on DVDs.