Last week, Google announced that it will be partnering with Duke Energy Corp., a leading utility giant with subsidiaries in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. As part of its ongoing efforts to expand its involvement in renewable energy, Google will purchase renewable energy directly from Duke Energy.
Currently, Google is acting as a broker, much like renewable retail electricity providers that are serving areas across the country that are open to electric choice (Google buys power from local renewable electricity generation companies and then sells back to the electric grid). This deal will allow Google to eliminate its middle-man status and to buy renewable electricity directly from the utility, and Duke Energy will be able to absorb the additional costs of producing renewable electricity onto its grid with this significantly large customer.
The partnership is a part of Google's plan to double its investment in its $600 million data center in North Carolina. As data centers use mass amounts of energy, Google is looking for ways to make its energy use more efficient and sustainable over the long term. And of course, Google looks to be an industry leader not only on the web, but as an innovative company leader that can set standards for other companies, communities, and governments.
Aside from the benefits for Google and Duke Energy, smaller players are likely to benefit as well. The renewable energy industry faces many problems from scalability to lack of battery storage infrastructure. However, most of the problems revolve around engineering, not the actual supply levels of renewable energy. Google has established itself as a leading investor of renewable energy initiatives in the U.S. and world, and is expected to set aside more resources to push engineers to tackle the problems that are keeping the renewable energy industry from expanding at a higher rate.
As part of Google's renewable energy efforts, the company has pledged to adhere to the firm standards of (1) providing additional renewable power generation to the nation (as opposed to shuffling around things like renewable energy certificates), and (2) only selecting projects that are scalable and have the highest possible impact on the renewable energy industry.