The energy it takes to power all of Google’s services — Gmail, YouTube, the search engine, etc. — is enough to power Arlington, Va., for a year, the company revealed on Thursday.
The search engine had faced increasing pressure from environmental groups to disclose its total energy consumption and carbon footprint. Google went above and beyond simple disclosure, posting an in-depth infographic in a blog post yesterday.
According to yesterday’s blog post, Google annually consumes around 260 million watts of energy per year — about 0.01 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, according to an independent report — using that tremendous amount of energy to power its data centers and servers, process search queries and provide services. This energy could fuel a small city of 200,000 people for an entire year.
The company also laid out the extent of its carbon footprint, even down to the user level. One hundred searches on Google, for instance, emits approximately 20 g of carbon dioxide — about the same as leaving a 60-watt lightbulb on for 28 minutes. A year of Gmail, meanwhile, consumes as much energy as the effort to drink a bottle of wine.
Environmental groups applauded Google’s disclosure, citing a long history of the company’s reticence to reveal their energy consumption. In an New York Times article, the company defended their silence, saying that they were worried that competitors would use the energy numbers to track the company’s growth.
“We’ve seen lots of leadership from Google on clean energy investment and climate advocacy, but not in terms of transparency,” said Gary Cook, an IT analyst at Greenpeace in a statement. “It’s good to see them finally put their carbon footprint data on the table. “
With the rise of a web-based economy and cloud computing, data center energy consumption now counts for 1.3 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, according to an independent report by Stanford professor Jonathan Koomey. Out of that, Google itself consumes about 1 percent of that energy, which they attempt to offset with carbon credits and on-campus solar energy farms.
Greenpeace led an initiative to get companies to commit to using clean energy to power their server farms. In an attempt to get Facebook to stop using coal energy to power their server farms, the environmental activist group set a world record for the most Facebook comments on a single status in 24 hours.