After over $1 billion in renewable energy investmentsGoogle's gazillion servers use a lot of energy. I'm not complaining, since they provide a service that science-fiction authors could only dream about a few decades ago, and that service is available to almost everybody on Earth free-to-use. But still, running these servers on clean energy can only make them even better for humanity. That's Google's goal, which they just moved on step closer to when the Ivanpah concentrating solar power station became operational last week (picture above, with more photos of its construction here).
Here's an overview of how the massive Ivanpah solar thermal plant works:
And here's some footage of the construction of this impressive project:
Google first invested in the project in 2011 to the tune of $168 million. Google isn't the only backer of the project, so the record-breaking 392 megawatts that will be produced at the plant's peak operations can't all be attributed to Google, but their dough certainly helped. In fact, solar PV got so cheap while Ivanpah was being built that many now have doubts that solar thermal plants will be built on this scale again...
According to Google’s Director of Energy and Sustainability, Rick Needham, about 34% of Google’s operations are powered by renewable energy at this time, with the ultimate goal of getting to 100%.
Most of these investments have been in wind power and solar power, as you can see here. All these combined can produce about 2 gigawatts of power (which, by doing some back of the envelope math, means that Google's power needs are about 6 gigawatts -- though 2GW might be just the capacity number, actual production can vary, so maybe Google's needs are actually higher than 6GW).