Google announced Wednesday it signed an agreement to buy wind energy from the Grand River Dam Authority, the first time the search engine giant has partnered with a utility to buy clean energy to directly run one of its data centers.
The GRDA will provide 48 megawatts of wind power from the Canadian Hills Wind Project, a 300 MW wind farm slated to come online later this year, Google's global infrastructure director Gary Demasi wrote in a blog post announcing the deal. The 48 MW of wind energy will be used to power Google's data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma.
Google says it will pay GRDA a premium to purchase clean energy generated by the wind farm. In other words, Google is opting to pay more for clean energy rather than buy cheaper power from GRDA, 50 percent of which is generated by coal.
The agreement was cheered by Greenpeace, which has urged companies like Google, Facebook and Apple to use more clean energy to power their data centers.
The deal is different from Google's previous power purchase agreements, where the company agreed to buy the energy directly from wind farm developers.
Google has hinted for some time that its ultimate goal would be to source clean energy from utilities to power its data centers. Google is working with other utilities to find ways to source renewables directly, Demasi wrote.
Still, Google and other companies with data centers face logistical head winds. Most IT companies build their data centers where there is access to cheap, reliable sources of power, which is a code word for fossil fuels and typically means coal.