On the heels of its $11 million push for plug-in hybrids, Google today said it will aim to generate 50 megawatts of renewable energy for its data centers by 2012 as part of its goal to carbon neutralize its operations by the new year. "Towards this end, we will set an internal cost of carbon voluntarily by using a ‘shadow price,’ the theoretical cost of carbon that we expect under a regulatory market," Google (GOOG) stated, a day after it put its 1.6 megawatt solar array – the
largest commerical solar installation in the U.S. – into operation at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. "This will allow us to make operational decisions as if there were already a price on carbon. That in turn enables us to include the true cost of power as one of the key criteria in site selection for our data centers – a cost not yet being recognized by the market, but one that will soon become real through carbon legislation. This is an important tool to reduce the financial risk that our energy investments face, and when evaluating power options, it will also put renewable energy on a level playing field."
Google will tap solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other renewable energy sources depending on the location of the facility, Google energy strategist Bill Weihl told Green Wombat through a spokesperson. The green electricity may generated on-site or elsewhere.
The search giant will purchase carbon offsets to cover emissions it does not directly eliminate. "As a start, we’ve calculated our own carbon footprint by taking into account the emissions from purchased electricity, employee commuting, business travel, construction, and the manufacturing of our servers," Google said. "And we’ve partnered with the Environmental Resources Trust to have our footprint independently verified." The company also said it will press for public policies to establish energy efficiency standards, renewable energy requirements, public funding for clean energy R&D and the setting of a price on greenhouse gas emissions.