"Energy costs are the largest operating cost for our data centers", Neha Palmer, the head of Google's energy strategy, said.
Rather than building its own wind farms and solar energy plants like AWS, though, Google is buying its power from renewable energy sources, with its commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy.
The costs of wind and solar have fallen by 60 percent and 80 percent respectively in the past six years, he said, and Google now buys energy from 20 renewable projects around the world, including sites in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Chile.
In total, the company says, they have committed to spending at least $3.5 billion, most of which is in the United States, that is expected to help local municipalities - with tax revenue and greater access in those locations to renewable energy.
"That's why we began purchasing renewable energy - to reduce our carbon footprint and address climate change". They also plan to potentially expand beyond wind and solar, and look into a variety of energy sources to ensure they have renewable power every hour of the day.
Just FYI, that's more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts needed to send Marty McFly back to the future. It is also becoming much less expensive to use wind and solar power for electricity than coal and natural gas.
Markets in Northern Europe where one of Googles 15 massive data center operates are created to make it easy and cost-effective to purchase renewable energy because you can directly choose the supplier, Palmer said. "But we still need a lot of energy to process trillions of Google searches every year, play more than 400 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute, and power the products and services that our users depend on". The company also supports renewable energy certificate programmes.
LUT and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have undertaken a number of similar studies, funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation as part of the Neo-Carbon Energy research initiative, but found that South America has a number of advantages for renewable energy adoption.
Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has moved forward in its goal of using 100% renewable energy for all its operations. The shift to cloud computing models, where users have lower-power devices like Chromebooks and smartphones and the heavy lifting is done remotely, has done little to resolve this, and it's estimated that data centres alone account for around three percent of global energy usage and rising.