Working and chatting online without polluting is possible thanks to wind energy

Large technology companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are opting for wind energy to supply their data centres and cloud services, there by avoiding excessive CO2 emissions.

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Large technology companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are opting for wind energy to supply their data centres and cloud services, there by avoiding excessive CO2 emissions


Have you ever considered how much energy is needed to maintain social networks like Facebook or online services such as Google Drive? To offer these products, large technology companies need physical spaces where they install their servers and store all of the information. These are what are known as data centres, and they now consume 2% of all the energy used on the planet, according to a report from Silent Partner Group of Companies.

For this reason, and as a social responsibility strategy, these companies have chosen to start their energy transition by supplying these facilities with renewable energies. For example, services like Apple iMessage, FaceTime and Siri are possible thanks to infrastructures which currently use 100% renewable energy. This interest from large companies has been a wake-up call for renewable energies such as wind, which has positioned itself as one of the most attractive sources.

According to the GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council), in 2007 installed wind power capacity around the world came close to 94,000 megawatts (MW), whilst ten years later it had almost multiplied by six, reaching 539,123 MW. In Europe, Germany tops the list of installed power (with 6,581 MW), followed by the United Kingdom (4,270 MW) and France (535 MW). Spain is ranked at number 13 in the list, with 96 MW.

A new drive for wind power

There are several factors that explain this growth in wind energy. On the one hand, the existence of international commitments in the fight against climate change has forced companies around the world to pay more attention to CO2 emissions. On the other hand, professionals in the sector agree that one of its main advantages is that generation costs have gone down in recent years, which has aroused the interest of big companies.

This saving has come about thanks to technological improvements and the support of financial entities in developing the necessary infrastructures. The president of Banco Santander, Ana Botín, agrees that “the banking sector, as the chief funder of energy production infrastructure, has an important role to play in this energy transition”.

The organisation has demonstrated this commitment by funding 700 renewable energy projects in the last decade, reaching an investment of over 22 billion euros. Among others, it has provided financing for the wind farm Reinosa III in Mexico, which has a capacity of 424 MW, “enough to supply 786.915 Mexican households”.

In 2017, the infrastructures financed by the Bank reached a capacity of 3.390 MW, thus avoiding the emission of 23 million tonnes of CO2. 80% of these facilities are dedicated to the generation of wind energy and 20% to solar power.

In addition, the popularization of PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) has also led to a stimulus in the expansion of clean energies. These long-term agreements, in which both parties determine the amount of energy, the price and the delivery deadlines, are a market that is just starting to gain momentum in Spain, but that in the United States has been operating for more than 10 years.

Apple and Google, 100% renewable 

The two American firms are supplied with 100% renewable energies, but while Google goes for wind energy, Apple prefers solar. 

Google, the world’s largest buyer of clean energy 

At the end of 2017 the Silicon Valley company became the company that purchases the most clean energy worldwide, after signing an agreement with the American subsidiary of Iberdrola (Avangrid Renewables) for the supply of 196 MW from its wind facilities in South Dakota. This is in addition to other contracts in the United States and Europe to supply their data centres, which makes Google the standard-bearer for wind energy, and they have participated in research to increase the efficiency of wind energy.

The tech giant is researching the use of kites that increase the efficiency of present day wind turbines. The invention has been developed by Makani, the company that Google acquired in 2013 and integrated into their research division. The solution consists of using a kite to generate electrical energy at greater heights (they will reach an altitude of between 80 and 350 metres), where winds are stronger. In their early trials, the company calculated that they will be able to generate 50% more energy and save 90% on the materials currently needed to build power generation facilities.

Apple also manages to get its suppliers working only with green energy

Since 2014 the American company has been using renewable energy, especially solar, to operate their data centres. At the beginning of 2018, the company announcedthat all of their facilities (including shops, offices and data centres) work with renewable energy.

Furthermore, they are leading by example and are driving environmental transition among their suppliers, more than 20 of which have already committed to using only renewable energies to supply the brand. The company estimates that the measures undertaken in this regard since 2011 have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) by 58%.

Facebook chooses wind power over other renewables 

Data from the specialised medium Renewable Energy indicate that 100% of the renewables consumed by Marc Zuckerberg’s company were from wind power. Last summer, the social network signed a new contract with the Portuguese company EDP Renováveis for 139 megawatts of wind energy over the next 15 years, from facilities in Indiana (United States). In addition to this, Facebook already had agreements with Enel and Iberdrola for the supply of wind energy for their data centres, and they are also participating in the building of the largest wind farm in Norway.

Microsoft

At the end of 2017, Bill Gates’ company finalised an agreement with General Electric to be supplied with the entire electrical output of a new wind farm in Ireland. With this, the company is guaranteeing a supply for the next 15 years to feed their cloud services. They are also proposing to study the batteries within wind turbines to work out how to store excess energy.

The prosper being made by large technology companies in the field of green energy consumption is a breath of fresh air for the environment. As large companies and industries bet on clean energy, carbon emissions will be considerably reduced and we will be closer to meeting urgent environmental commitments to curb damage to the planet.

 

By Belén Belmonte

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