Google Claims It Has Zero Carbon Footprint

Google has kept information on its energy use a secret for years, but now the search giant is going public with the details. In a couple of blog posts, Google talks about its energy approach and links to a new “The Big Picture” page where you can learn all about it.

The biggest claim the company makes is that it has zero carbon footprint, which is no small feat for a tech giant like Google whose entire company is based on online tools and services. How is this possible?

Google says it uses half the electricity of a typical data center, although most of those savings come from the actual facilities and not so much the servers themselves. Additionally, 30% of the energy the company uses is from renewable sources, including wind and solar. (Google plans to increase that number to 35% in 2012.)

The company’s office buildings join in the energy savings effort with initiatives such as roof-mounted solar panels and its bike-to-work program. Google believes that such measures spare the world 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Of course, Google is still using a massive amount of energy, so it invests in carbon offsets to help bring its net carbon footprint down to zero. In a blog post, Urs Hoelzle (Senior Vice President, Technical Infrastructure) said “By investing hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects and companies, we’re helping to create 1.7 GW of renewable power. That’s the same amount of energy used to power over 350,000 homes, and far more than what our operations consume.”

So how much power does Google and its various activities consume?

-In 2010, Google produced 1.46 million metric tons of CO2 (before offsets)
-In 2010, Google used 2,259,998 MWh of electricity
-A single search query burns 0.0003 kWh, or 0.2g of carbon dioxide.
-Streaming one minute of a YouTube video uses 0.0002 kWh (0.1g of carbon dioxide)
-One year of Gmail for an individual user consumes 2.2 kWh (1.2kg of carbon dioxide)

More power to Google for finding ways to be more efficient and help the environment, even though it’s also benefiting the company’s coffers--electricity isn’t free, after all, and it’s always a serious cost consideration for data centers. Regardless, going the extra mile to erase its massive carbon footprint is a commendable move.