Google clears air on electricity consumption

In a response to reports that Google’s energy use equals “half the energy as boiling a kettle of water” and produces 7 grams of carbon dioxide.” the company posted a blog refuting the claims and explaining in detail how much amount of energy its data centres consume each time the “Search” button is hit.

According to Google, its data centres use the same amount of energy as a body would burn in ten seconds. Moreover, the company has been frank enough to disclose data on its all-inclusive energy use, publishing figures on its consumption use which adds up to continuous use of energy to power 200,000 homes or about 0.01% of worldwide electricity use.

Whenever a netizen uses Google Search, watches YouTube video or sends an email through Gmail, the Google data centres draw electricity equaling to 260 million watts or about a quarter the output of a nuclear plant. This may seem obnoxious, which is why it was estimated that the company has kept its energy use statistics under wraps and also to hide from its competitors how Google functioned.

However, Google claims that energy used by its data centres actually make the earth a greener place to live though the electricity consumption may seem disagreeable. Urs Hoelzle, Google’s senior vice president argued that people should consider that googling on the Internet saves on various other energy-consuming activities such as salvaging the quantity of gasoline that a person would otherwise have used to drive to the library.

Hoelzle also said that a personal computer would typically use more amount of electricity than Google search which would be about 180 watt-hours a month, or the equivalent of running a 60-watt light bulb for three hours. It also means 0.3 watt-hours of electricity per average search which totals to 12.5 million watts of Google’s 260-million-watt total when assumed that billions of queries are searched on Google.

The electricity figures disclosed were used by worldwide Google operations, campuses and office parks but most importantly by data centres. Additionally, contradictory to many data-driven companies, Google designs its own data centres making use of energy-saving chips and software.

Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco welcomed Google’s decision to lay open its electricity consumption facts but still warned that energy consumption by data centres was increasing because many major corporations were depending on Google servers. Also, Google has not made it clear how much energy is drawn by personal computers, tablets and iPhones that use Google for information.

Google also provided statistics on how its carbon emissions in 2010 were just under 1.5 million metric tons, most of them contributed by data centres. Also, 25 percent of its energy was supplied by renewable fuels in 2010, plans are on, to raise it to 30 percent in 2011.


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