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Google buys wind from Warren Buffett

Posting in Energy
Google started talking about renewable energy to MidAmerican Energy, the power company owned by Warren Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway, as soon as construction began on its Council Bluffs, Iowa data center. Now, seven years later, the two companies have struck a deal.

Google announced this week the utility has agreed to supply its Iowa data center with wind power.This is Google's seventh and largest renewable energy commitment, to date, the company says. In all, Google has contracted for more than one gigawatt, or 1,000 megawatts, of renewable energy. 

The agreement is similar to its 2012 contract with Oklahoma utility Grand River Dam Authority. In both cases, the utility has agreed to supply Google's data center with energy from a wind project. 

Under the deal with MidAmerican, Google will be supplied with up to 407 MW of wind energy from several projects built as part of the utility's Wind VIII program—an initiative to add 656 new turbines in Iowa by the end of 2015. The agreement supplies the first phase of Google's facilities in Council Bluffs, Iowa with 100 percent renewable wind energy and will accommodate additional phases. 

Google Pushes Renewable Energy Tariff

Google is also working on another plan that could give it—and other large electricity consumers—the power to buy renewable energy directly from local utilities, according to the company. Right now, companies can install renewable energy at their facilities, purchase renewable energy credits and enter into power purchase agreements to procure power and RECs together. 

Google argues in a white paper released last week that each of these options can be both cumbersome and limited. For the most part, utilities and the state commissions that regulate them don't have a way for large users like Google, Apple and Microsoft, to request renewable power. 

Google wants utilities to offer a new voluntary class of service known as a renewable energy tariff. The costs of procuring the renewable energy would be passed on to the customer that has asked for this option. The goal, Google says, is to avoid any cost impact on other ratepayers. 

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— By on April 24, 2014, 9:08 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure