Google's new initiative to develop renewable energy sources conjures up images of data centers powered by water, wind, and the sun. No need to stretch your imagination; Google's already got them.Google's hydro-powered data center on the banks of the Columbia River in The Dalles, Ore., has been well documented. I walked the perimeter of the facility in August. As you can see from my pictures, Google's data center is literally a stone's throw from the Columbia. The juice to power and cool the place comes from a dam a mile or so downstream.
I'm not an expert in these things, but it seems to me that The Dalles would be a good location for wind-powered energy to augment the swift current of the Columbia. The surrounding landscape, hills, and river valley form a natural wind tunnel, at least they did when I was there. Rights of way and public resistance to eyesore windmills would seem to be the obvious barriers.
In the Netherlands, Google has a wind-powered data center nearing completion. Check out these pictures by local Erwin Boogert.
There are caveats to these images of a green Shangri La. In The Dalles, Google negotiated discounted energy rates and tax incentives, so it's able to suck more power at lower costs than other companies. And in the Netherlands, those windmills provide only some of the power. A power plant down the road generates the rest.
But it's clear that Google is intent on using eco-friendly energy sources in lieu of coal-burning power plants. In an article about a new Google data center under construction in Council Bluffs, Iowa, The Des Moines Register notes that Google purchased 1,000 acres of land south of town in addition to 55 acres for the data center itself and another 130 acres nearby. When local farmer Bruce Barnett asked Google's Ken Patchett -- the manager of Google's data center in Oregon -- about how that land would be used, he was told that Google was still thinking about it.
Might those 1,000 acres be used for a wind farm? Google's "renewable energy cheaper than coal" project increases the possibility.