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Google Going Solar Again, But Will It Last?

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Google has announced it will enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Eneco to purchase all of the electricity generated by the largest solar park in the Netherlands.

The electricity will be used to power the Eemshaven data center, which cost roughly 600 million euros to build and opened in 2016.

According to pvmagazine.com, Google currently has around 2.7 GW of renewable energy capacity under its belt. The site quotes Marc Oman, EU energy lead at Google, as saying:

“After the agreement with Eneco for the delivery of wind energy from WindPark Delfzijl and the agreements with the wind parks Krammer and Bouwdokken, we are pleased that we can now also make use of solar energy. Worldwide, we have already contracted the delivery of 2.7 GW of green electricity, which makes Google the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Contracts like this give companies like Eneco the economic certainty to invest in new renewable energy capacity.”

This most recent PPA is part of Google’s ambition to switch its data centers and offices entirely to renewable energy this year, helped by the steep fall in prices for wind and solar energy.

Questions have surfaced, however, as to the long-term validity of solar power as a solution for Google data center energy demands. In an interview published on gigabit.net, Jeff Gorissen, COO and Founder of Data Valley Group, says there is only so much solar to go around. He states:

“Google are building data centers and promising to use solar energy to power them, but there’s a limited amount of green energy in the Netherlands, particularly wind. The Netherlands is only small. A 10-acre field full of solar panels sounds nice, but it’s only used for one data center of 10,000 sq. m – you could power an entire village with that. It’s a good solution, but I don’t think it’s the solution. Data centers use too much energy and the future green energy, solar and wind, there’s not enough of it so the solution doesn’t work in the long term.”

Google seems to think differently — and so does Apple and Facebook. Just this month, Apple announced it will begin construction on a $921 million data center in Denmark that will run entirely on renewable energy. And Facebook announced in April that it would begin construction on a data center in Nebraska that is to be 100% powered by wind energy.

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