Google today made its biggest renewable energy purchase yet, agreeing to buy 407 megawatts of carbon-free electricity to be generated by a massive wind project under construction by Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy in Iowa.
Given that electricity generated by the wind farms goes into the Iowa power grid, what Google is actually buying are the renewable energy certificates associated with that power production. Still, the bottom line remains the same as Google is guaranteeing revenues for MidAmerican.
The 407 megawatts is the equivalent amount of power consumed by the first and future phases of Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The company has been on green energy buying spree in recent years and now has signed deals for more than a gigawatt of electricity. At peak output, that’s would be enough energy to power several hundred thousand American homes.
Corporate buyers of wind and solar energy have become increasingly important as utilities meet mandates to purchase a certain amount of the electricity they distribute from renewable sources and turn to cheap natural gas. Ikea, for instance, last week acquired a 98-megawatt Illinois wind farm.
No company has been as aggressive as Google, though, when it comes to making big-ticket purchases of renewable energy. And Google, which holds a federal license to buy and sell electricity through its Google Energy subsidiary, has not been a passive consumer. Last September, for instance, it purchased the entire output of a 240-megawatt Texas wind farm so it could sell the electricity to the wholesale market that services its Oklahoma data center.