Google Energy, which is owned by the search engine company Google, got approval Thursday to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market. The company was created and applied for market based rate-authorization in December, and it will be able to start trading energy on February 23.
According to reporting by PC World, Google’s move into the energy market is a strategy to help provide power to the electricity-hungry buildings that house its search engine, advertising network, email software, and all the other things Google does that require large groups of computers.
Google has also made a pledge to be carbon neutral, so being able to buy and sell energy will help it incorporate greener energy into its operations, the article said.
Google, and computing in general, has come under fire recently for not being very green in an article by the UK paper The Times. A Harvard physicist is working on research into the environmental impact of computing, and estimates that an average Google search generates 7 grams (0.25 ounces) of carbon. They arrive at this number by counting from the time a user begins searching until they find what they are looking for, and estimate that carbon generation could range from 1-10 grams (0.04-0.35 ounces), depending on equipment. In everyday terms, they say a search is equivalent to half the energy required to boil a kettle.
Google claims an individual search needs 1 kilojoule (0.0003 kilowatt hours) of energy, which is equivalent to about 0.2 grams (0.007 ounces) of carbon. Google says in a blog post that that amount of energy is consumed by the human body in 10 seconds, and the carbon emissions of a newspaper equal about 850 Google searches. In addition to increasing its efficiency, Google says its recycling practices, investment in renewable energy, and efforts to increase the efficiency of the entire IT industry help offset any criticism.
Google also has software for monitoring energy usage called Google PowerMeter, which requires a special power meter to be installed on the user’s home. Users can log in to the software to see how much energy they are using from hour to hour. It’s a small pilot project of their philanthropy arm, Google.org, and is partnered with 10 utility companies in North America and Europe, and two companies to make the special power meters.
Although Google doesn’t have plans to become a power company, according to the PC World article, it is interesting that they have a pilot project involving power meters and monitoring software.